A recent report from Aramark Collegiate Hospitality announced that Fairfield University has witnessed a “143% explosion in voluntary meal plans” since 2021, a shocking increase that evidences a heightened commitment to innovative dining services.
This fall, Stags Hospitality welcomed a notable addition to its host of culinary options: a Food Truck Village located in the Kelley Center parking lot.
The existence of metallic mobile eateries is not an unknown sight, as the first food trucks rolled onto campus during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Historically, students could access a singular food truck with vendors that rotated daily.
Today, the number of food trucks has tripled.
The fleet of rotating third-party food trucks will remain. But, students will also be able to enjoy offerings from Zuppardi’s Apizza, Jack*s Burritos and Hot Spot Bowls.
Director of Stags Hospitality, Jay DeGioia ‘80, underscored the key role that the fleet plays in building partnerships with the local vendors.
“Fairfield University has always prided itself on creating relationships with restaurants in and around the region,” DeGioia remarked. “Restaurant partners provide expertise in different cuisines that allow students to experience many new cultural dining experiences.”
As previously mentioned, Zuppardi’s Apizza is a new facet of Stags Hospitality. While Jack*s Burritos and Hot Spot Bowls will each be open for two days a week, Zuppardi’s Apizza will be open from Monday through Friday.
Nuala Tzovolos, the manager of Zuppardi’s, was “part of many discussions early on about partnering with Fairfield University” and is “excited to be here.”
According to their website, the legacy of Zuppardi’s Apizza originated in New Haven when founder and “master bread-baker” Dominic Zuppardi opened his first brick-and-mortar store in 1932.
Today, the business encompasses three restaurants and a truck that specializes in personal pizzas, which Tzovolos believes “is preferred for this type of service.”
“With a personal pie, the students are able to use their meal swipes and get their individual choices in pizza to eat with their friends,” she explained.
Tzovolos also highlighted the opportunity for students to work in the truck, where “they will gain an understanding of business operations, marketing and sales.”
The introduction of Zuppardi’s was followed by an announcement pertaining to another beloved on-campus pizzeria.
On Aug. 31, the Stags Hospitality Instagram page, @stagshospitality, revealed that The Levee will be closed on Friday and Saturday.
“When I heard the Levee was going to be closed on Fridays and Saturdays, I didn’t believe it at first,” Angelo Corsini ‘25 admitted.
The Levee was established by members of the Fairfield University Student Association (FUSA) who “felt that there was something lacking for a location for students to go on the weekends,” according to an article published by Andres Peschiera in 2013.
Nearly 30 years after it first opened, current students continue to corroborate the necessity of a late-night option for the weekends.
Corsini considers a visit to The Levee to be a critical element of his “weekend routine”.
The Levee will now be open from Sunday to Thursday from 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., a change reflective, according to Stags Hospitality, of the decreased usage of meal swipes during the latter half of the week.
“Meal swipes on Fridays and Saturdays across campus are much lower than any time during the week,” DeGioia shared. “The schedules are based on traffic patterns and data we compile and check constantly.”
Jennifer Anderson ‘97 MBA ‘02, the vice president of marketing and communications, reiterated that “it is common practice when evaluating, executing and planning to use data and data insights to ensure good customer experience and effective decision making.”
“These types of insights are important across all operational disciplines in business, including the fluctuation of food consumption patterns here at the University,” Anderson emphasized.
Gianna Greco ‘26 expressed concerns about the scheduling adjustments, as she feels that the change will create “a ghost town of food options.”
DeGioia ensures that the Food Truck Village will fill gaps left by the Levee’s closures and “provide flexibility for special events, off-campus events and [serve as] a viable back-up option for emergency situations like power outages and beach evacuation.”
Moreover, he discussed the plans to utilize The Levee “as a location available for student programming on Fridays and Saturdays.”
“We look forward to welcoming student groups to partner with our dining team for special events in the future,” DeGioia stated.
On Nov. 30, 2022, The Mirror published an article outlining the intention to rebuild The Levee to be “five or six times the size it is now.”
The article noted that construction would be “starting in summer of 2023,” but the building remains untouched. An exact timeline has yet to be publicized, but DeGioia has assured that renovation has not been paused indefinitely.
“As the campus grows, the University is always looking to improve the student experience and evaluating locations and their use is a part of that,” DeGioia observed. “The Levee expansion is still being considered.”
Despite fluctuations in scheduling, the numerical data provided by Aramark’s 2023 report demonstrates overall satisfaction within the student body.
In addition to the drastic increase in voluntary meal plans, Aramark documented that “81% of students feel it’s easy to order and pick up food on campus.”
As Stags Hospitality seeks further improvement, DeGioia prompts students “to provide feedback, suggestions and continue to let us know how we are doing.”
“In partnership with the University, we are always looking for ways to improve and enhance the student experience,” DeGioia said. “We are proud of the Stag Hospitality team and strive to be the best in the industry.”