Carolina Food Co. announced in an Instagram post on June 6 that a new dining hall was being added to the second floor of Russell House.
The renovations stem from USC’s contract with Carolina Food Co. in 2017 when the company took over food operations, according to Faren Alston, the marketing director for Carolina Food Co.
“This renovation was approved to come to fruition this year,” Alston said in an email to The Daily Gamecock. “That decision then prompted the decision to relocate and sunset some of the existing dining locations.”
Construction to the dining areas in Russell House started on May 2 with plans for it to be finished before the fall 2022 semester begins.
The new dining hall, Gamecock Park, will consist of seven different stations that include options ranging from pasta, pizza and dessert to an international food station and a True Balance section.
“This will be the sixth all-you-care-to-eat dining location offered to support a residential campus and the all access meal plan structure that is available to students,” Alston said in the email.
Along with the dining hall, USC is adding more seating to the second floor of Russell House to accommodate seating for 290 people. Anyone who wishes to eat at Gamecock Park but does not have the meal plan can pay a door rate when entering the dining hall.
While the second floor of Russell House previously held retail locations such as Food Lab, Twisted Taco and Gamecock General, these places will be relocated to the first floor of Russell House with Food Lab replacing Tavolino and Twisted Taco taking the place of Congaree River Smokehouse. Gamecock General will merge with Fresh Lane, and Hissho Sushi will be replaced with Panda Express.
Margaret Kildow, the director of operations for Carolina Food Co., said that during dinner, Food Lab will continue with its normal rotating menu, but for lunch, the retail location is looking to connect with local vendors.
“We are also working on partnerships with local restaurants right now, getting together that portfolio, so during lunch period, (Food Lab) will be a rotation of local restaurants from the community,” Kildow said.
As for Horseshoe Deli, Alston said the retail space’s location will change and take the place of the Einstein’s Bros. Bagels on the east side of campus. Because the east side of campus will have another sandwich place, Carolina Food Co. is shifting Colloquium Café's menu to carry chicken finger platters, wraps and salads, according to Alston.
In addition to these retail spaces on campus, Carolina Food Co. is looking to add a dining space, Brew Bar, to Strom Thurmond Wellness and Fitness Center that will serve coffee, smoothies and to-go salads and sandwiches. Carolina Food Co. will also add a "salad robot" in the Arnold School of Public Health.
Other changes to campus dining include Market 101 reopening in McBryde, which will serve items such as slushies and other goods found in a convenience store, Grubhub eliminating its 59-cents fee when ordering food and the addition of food lockers to Food Lab, Einstein’s Bros. Bagels and Twisted Taco.
“We’ll have the food lockers to use — the student, or whoever, will get the code to their phone, they’ll use the code to open up the locker and they’ll be able to get their food out,” Kildow said.
With these changes to retail spaces and dining locations, the all-access meal plan will change for students. Instead of two meal swipes a day, students will receive seven meal swipes that can be used at anytime throughout the week. Carolina Food Co. has also added $50 meal plan dollars to each all-access meal plan option, giving students either $250 or $400 meal plan dollars, depending on which option they select.
Despite all the renovations to dining, Alston said the change in cost for meal plan is not due to changes in dining.
“There will be a price increase to the meal plan, as there is every year, but it is not attributed to this renovation,” Alston said.
Sandi Lee, the director of revenue contract management and support for CarolinaCard, said that through these changes, the university is looking to accommodate more students coming into Russell House.
“Our on-campus students need a throughput,” Lee said. “There are so many students coming in and out of these doors. It was needed to have an all-access here.”