Aramark’s partnership with celebrity chef Cat Cora last year yielded OLILO, a concept with a delicious, healthy, made-your-way menu featuring Cora’s signature Mediterranean tastes and flavors. The concept was originally developed exclusively for Aramark’s B&I clients, but after a successful rollout to more than 300 corporate dining locations, it was ready to give it the old college try as well.
So debuting in early January with the start of the spring semester at East Carolina University was Aramark’s first higher education OLILO unit, featuring the same customizable healthy Mediterranean menu as in the B&I sites.
Located in the retail dining cluster in the school’s centrally located Wright Place facility, the OLILO station offers diners a choice of either standardized formulations or the option of customizing a dish with either a greens- and grains-bowl base or flatbread base that is filled out with a choice of proteins like lemon chicken and seasonal salmon, and various toppings, spreads and dressings like hummus and baba ganoush.
Open from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, OLILO has been drawing about 400 diners a day, says Aramark District Manager JP Festerman.
“From our end, OLILO gives us a fresh, Mediterraneanesque feel,” he explains. “The menu is really the driver, with offerings from a healthy perspective that meet student needs in that central part of campus. And of course having Cat Cora’s name associated with it definitely helps, too.”
The reaction has been “tremendous,” Festerman offers. “We’ve had a great presence from a social media standpoint,” he notes, adding that customer satisfaction scores at OLILO are the highest on campus. “[Students] comment numerous times that they’re willing to walk from wherever they are on campus to this center spot because of the quality of food, as well as the whole presentation of the station.”
That has been a gratifying payoff as OLILO displaced a moderately successful pizza/pasta concept at the location with one focused on rather exotic flavorings and ingredients. While student surveys, including intercept surveys at Wright Place, indicated a change was in order, it was still a gamble.
“We were removing a fairly popular concept,” Festerman admits. “You’re taking away pizza/pasta—something pretty standard at a college—and going for a risky option of Mediterranean flavors, but it has surpassed what we thought it would do in the first few weeks it’s been open, so we’re very happy with it.”
As for extending OLILO out of the B&I environments for which it was originally developed, “Our plan all along was to launch OLILO in business dining, then expand it across our other lines of business,” explains Kelly Banaszak, Aramark’s director of marketing communications for education and healthcare. “Based on the success we’ve had to date and feedback from clients, we determined the higher education sector was a logical next steps. We’ll continue to explore opportunities to introduce the OLILO brand across our other lines of business.”
“I think the brand as a whole has been dynamite,” Festerman summarizes. “They’ve been great to work with and were thrilled with what they’ve done so far on campus.