The Quiznos @ The Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock both supports the mission of its host institution and provides the wider campus community a popular, high-impact dining option in a convenient, centrally located space.
The main goal of the concept is to provide educational support to the Burkhart Center by being a learning lab for its students, who are taught food safety, proper food handling, cashier training, customer service and general job skills in order to ready them to graduate and go out into the world on their own.
“Due to the nature of the education and research done at the Burkhart Center and the sensitive needs of their clientele, the perfect operation had to be put in place,” says Kirk Rodriguez, managing director of Texas Tech Hospitality Services. “We wanted a concept that would lend itself to hiring students who are clients of the Burkhart Center. This concept is unique to our campus in that we adapt our training to students’ learning needs in the workplace, with the assistance of the Burkhart Center staff.”
After $760,000 in construction and equipment, the eatery’s doors opened in January in a central campus location that is convenient for both on-campus residents and commuter students as they head to class or the library. Also, because it is so close to many academic and office buildings, it is a popular lunch spot for faculty and staff. The unit is connected both to The Burkhart Center lobby and has a street entrance.
The target clientele includes the entire Texas Tech campus community and the location has been promoted through a variety of means, including table tent advertising on over 550 tables campuswide, digital advertising boards in over 20 campus locations and social media. A ribbon cutting/grand opening January 12 was extensively publicized through numerous press releases to local newspapers and electronic media and received plenty of coverage.
The Burkhart Center is designed to serve students within the autism spectrum, with strategies that include on-the-job-training for students who may not have had that opportunity. In order to accomplish this, the school chose Quiznos as the franchise to operate in the location and be a learning lab in support of the center’s mission, while also meeting the foodservice needs in that area of campus.
The chain provided initial training for all employees and worked with the Texas Tech Hospitality Services training staff to ensure proper employee training in the future. As of this past spring, about 10 Burkhart Center students had been hired and trained in areas of customer service, food safety/proper food handling, cashiering, cleaning and time management.
“The partnership has been a huge success for our students and for our campus,” Rodriguez says. “It will be very rewarding to see these students graduate with a bachelor’s degree as well as practical job skills. We look forward to continuing to educate students that fall within the autism spectrum as a way to give back to the Texas Tech University community as well as the world in general.