There’s a new place to eat on the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus.
The Nest, located on the ground floor of the Osprey Suites residence hall, opened Friday to coincide with the start of the spring 2021 semester. And it’s not just for USF students and staff – the general public is welcome as well.
“The students are super pumped about it, but also I think the position of where it is on the border of campus presents an opportunity to give the St. Pete community something to be excited about,” said David DiSalvo, resident district manager at Aramark, USF’s provider for on-campus dining services.
The first full-service dining facility on the St. Petersburg campus, the Nest is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and features all-you-care-to-eat food options from eight themed food stations, many of which are popular staples on the Tampa campus. They are:
- Vegetabull: A Vegan cuisine station providing plant-based meal options.
- @Home: The place to find comfort food like lasagna and mac and cheese.
- The Burg’er: This station features a variety of burgers, along with fries and onion rings.
- DestiNations: The menu at this station will change weekly and will highlight different global cuisines.
- 3rd Street Deli: Here’s where you can grab a made-to-order sandwich, wrap or panini.
- Central Garden: This salad spot features fresh produce from local providers.
- Pete’Za: Diners can customize their own pizza at this station.
- True Balance: This station takes up one side of The Nest and is designed to accommodate those with food allergies. Their menu excludes the top eight allergens, including tree nuts, dairy and soy.
Aside from the food stations, there are dedicated areas where students can get coffee, tea and desserts.
Jessica Cicalese, marketing director for USF Dining Services, said about 400 St. Pete students will be on the meal plan for the spring semester, and students from any USF campus will be able to use their plans to dine at The Nest.
“Once they swipe in using their USF ID, it’s kind of like a cruise ship,” she said. “They have access to all the stations.”
The ID swipe represents only a small portion of the technology in place at The Nest. Each food station features a QR code where diners can access nutrition information that can be linked with My Fitness Pal, a popular food tracking app. They can also use the codes to take surveys and connect with dietitians. Additionally, students can reach out to USF dining team members via text to share feedback and ask questions.
Once they sit down to eat, they’ll have easy access to outlets and USB ports to plug in their computers and phones, and they can also access an app that will allow them to control the music being played over the speakers. At the end of their meal when they bring their trays back, the amount of waste generated will get weighed and the cumulative total displayed on a monitor in an effort to promote awareness and sustainability.
“Sometimes at a buffet, you have a tendency to overeat or over-portion for yourself,” DiSalvo said. “This encourages the behavior of ‘take whatever you’d like but please eat what you take.’”
Aside from food and technology, staff members are paying extra attention to Covid-19 protocols. The Nest has a large hand-washing station with TV monitors above it to share public health messaging. Enhanced sanitization measures are also in place, and tables are spaced out to promote social distancing. Currently, the seating is somewhere in the 60-70 seat range, but The Nest can house almost 300 people during regular circumstances, DiSalvo said.
While in-person events are limited for now, The Nest is set up in a way to easily accommodate them, and several requests have already been made.
“If the city or the chancellor or a department head or a group of students wanted to reserve this area, they could do so,” DiSalvo said. “I know the campus community has been pretty excited about it.”
Above all, DiSalvo and Cicalese hope that The Nest gives students a feeling of connection and comfort at their home away from home.
“That’s the common theme here,” DiSalvo said. “The food’s going to be here and it’s going to be great, but this is community-building for them. It’s about making sure they have a safe place to be.”