Dining services to open plant-based café Fall 2021

The lines at South Campus Marketplace are empty on Monday evening. Dining services plans to open a plant-based cafe in Fall 2021 offering a mix of vegetarian and vegan dishes. Photo by Matt Pickett/The Daily Campus

Robert Landolphi, assistant director of culinary development, spoke about the recent survey sent to University of Connecticut students about student interest in a plant-based café on campus and what it means for the future. 

Landolphi said there are three main goals in mind for the plant-based café: to offer a mix of vegetarian and vegan dishes, to support local farming efforts and to directly involve students in  the café development. He said they hope to involve students  in different aspects of the café’s planning. 

“The vision is to have a café that offers plant-based vegan and vegetarian dishes, supports as much local agriculture as possible and has as much student involvement as possible… We are still in the planning stages of the café, but our goal is to have students take part in different areas of implementation,” Landolphi said. 

Landolphi said the idea was first brought to dining services by student Maddie Pickett, a fourth-semester biomedical engineering major, after she discovered a plant-based café in Massachusetts. She felt the idea would do well on the UConn Storrs campus, so she approached dining services with her idea. 

The South Campus Marketplace serves a variety of healthy vegan and vegetarian options daily and Dining Services hopes to broaden the options with a plant-based cafe. Photo by Matt Pickett/The Daily Campus

“A University of Connecticut student by the name of Madelyn Picket approached us with the idea,” Landolphi said. “She stumbled across an independently-run cooperative plant-based café in Massachusetts and thought it was a unique idea that might work on UConn’s campus.” 

Dining services is content with the student response to the survey sent out on Jan. 20, Landolphi said. He said they received almost 3,000 responses and almost 1,000 students said they were interested in assisting with the café in some way. 

“We were very happy with the results of the survey and had almost 3,000 students respond to the survey, and close to 1,000 who were interested in being involved in the project, whether it is planning stages or working at the café,” Landolphi said. “Based on the results, we now have enough data to move forward with this project with a goal of opening this café in the fall.” 

Looking to the future, Landolphi said they will develop a mission statement before contacting students for their favorite recipes or any ideas they may have. Following this, he said they will test and evaluate the dishes to see what will be on the menu. 

“We will probably put together a mission statement and then we will ask students to share their favorite plant-based recipes and ideas,” Landolphi said. “I will then categorize those recipes and invite a handful of students who are interested in working the café to join me in the Innovation Lab/Test Kitchen to test the recipes; this means preparing, tasting and evaluating the dishes.” 

Landolphi said they hoped this café will also give dining services the opportunity to support more Connecticut farms. In particular, he cited the Spring Valley Farm on campus as a particular farm they look to support. 

“We hope that this café will also give us an opportunity to use more Connecticut-grown produce and support our student-run Spring Valley Farm on campus,” Landolphi said. 

“I see the whole idea of ‘Plant-based’ as a form of a sustainable lifestyle rather than just a diet.”

Pickett said her goals for the café included showing others that plant-based eating could be viewed as  a lifestyle rather than just a diet. She said she hopes to share the benefits of this change not only for individuals but for UConn and the world as a whole. 

“I brought this to life because, for me, I see the whole idea of ‘plant-based’ as a form of a sustainable lifestyle rather than just a diet,” Pickett said. “My main goal here, more than anything, is to educate and spread awareness not only on the benefits for our individual selves but for the UConn community and our planet.” 

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