Fresco and GRAZERS no longer a part of the Student Center HUB

Outside the GRAZERS location in downtown Kent.

Ashley Blood Reporter

From the vegan station, vegetarian foods offered in the Eastway Fresh Food Company and the various options available to students at the new Design Innovation dining hall, there is no doubt that Kent State University prides itself on the variety of food options catering to many different types of students.

However, less options were available when GRAZERS and Fresco decided to leave the Student Center HUB.

Stacey Lasher, the owner of GRAZERS, said that while she and her team loved serving the students, staff and faculty over the years at Kent State, they decided to leave on their own accord.

“Between the sudden meal plan changes that went into place a few years ago that meant students had less declining balance dollars to spend with us and the recent pandemic that had a drastic effect on our business, we were forced to make the decision of staying in the HUB or continuing to run our restaurant downtown,” Lasher said. “We decided to make the hard decision to choose our downtown location over the HUB.”

Lasher also added that GRAZERS had tried to make changes to its menu in order to try and eliminate some of the food cost, but unfortunately it still wasn’t enough to make ends meet.

“We initially started GRAZERS because we have food restrictions ourselves,” Lasher said. “We wanted to create a restaurant where anyone could walk in and be able to find something to eat, which is why we feel it is so important to have no processed ingredients as well as gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian and overall healthy options to offer.”

T.J. Ingersoll, the owner of Fresco, said that he was dealing with the same financial issues.

Students not having the money they once had to spend on campus with the previous meal plan system as well as the extreme loss of business due to the pandemic fast-tracked the decision to close their businesses. 

“When we returned to the HUB in the fall, we really lost the fun we used to have,” he said. “There aren’t many students, staff or faculty on campus this year due to the pandemic, and our business downtown has also taken a hit because of that.”

Both owners mentioned that they were also dealing with staffing issues in the HUB over the past few years.

“Students already have such crazy availability hours with school and other activities as it is,” Ingersoll said. “We had students who were only able to work a few hours here and there, but not nearly enough to keep our business running as smoothly as we wanted it to in the HUB. I even had to call my wife up at some point and ask her to come down to work the cash register because of how understaffed we were.”

Students with dietary restrictions are also dealing with less options with two vegetarian options gone from the HUB. 

Karlee Buck, a freshman nutrition major, has been a vegan for three years and is impressed by Kent State’s vegan options, but would have enjoyed eating at Fresco and GRAZERS.

“That was definitely a huge reason as to why I decided to come to Kent State,” Buck said. “They offer a lot more options than the other colleges I was looking at.”

Buck never had the opportunity to eat at GRAZERS while they were in the HUB and only ate at Fresco a few times before they decided to leave.

“When I lived on campus, I started to become tired of the vegan options served at the dining halls because they would serve the same kinds of food all the time,” she said. “I wish I had more of an opportunity to eat at those places in the HUB because I would have definitely loved to eat there to break up the monotony of the dining hall options.”

Ashley Blood is a student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected].