Centrally located Highland Market sits in a residence hall on the campus of the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson, where it is also within walking distance of seven other campus dorms and near four off-campus student housing complexes. As such, it offers a convenient dining option outside of the UA Student Union, especially given its signature menu item, a special burrito (more on that in a moment). It also has a (not very well kept) secret menu (more on that in a moment, too).
Open round the clock, Highland Market sells fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen foods, health and beauty products, toiletries, deli fare and Red Blue Market branded to-go items as part of its retail mix. Like all c-stores on the UA campus, it serves the house branded UA coffee in either bag or K-cup form.
Prepared food foodservice comes from an Einstein Bros. Bagels espresso bar, a deli and the Highland Grille, which serves everything prepared to order and completely customizable. Selections range from turkey, veggie, chicken and beef burgers to chicken tenders, hot dogs, chicken wings, quesadillas, nachos and a variety of breakfast items like buttermilk pancakes, oatmeal topped with fresh fruit and a breakfast platter featuring pancakes, eggs, hash browns and bacon.
The deli, meanwhile, incorporates Greek-style pitas, custom and premade deli sandwiches, sushi made fresh daily by the culinary team, sandwich wraps, fresh-cut fruit, various pasta salads, custom and premade salads and rotisserie chicken among other selections.
However, the signature menu item at Highland Market is the Highland Burrito, the most ordered choice at the Market’s peak hours of 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Ordering a Highland Burrito in the wee hours is said to have become a school tradition and a rite of passage.
The Highland Burrito is made with fresh-cracked cage-free eggs, russet potatoes, cheddar cheese and housemade salsa wrapped in a tortilla from a local business, Mendez Tortilleria. The recipe was created by a longtime Arizona Student Union employee named Carmine Castillo, who saw a need for a menu item that was satisfying, made of fresh, local ingredients and embraced the local culture.
A special marketing touch associated with the Highland Burrito is a “secret menu” that features four additional breakfast burrito variations and is probably one of the worst kept secrets on the UA campus despite not appearing in print anywhere—well, except on employee shirts, custom ping-pong balls named after each secret menu item and, perhaps most blatantly, on “We Have a Secret” pins worn by employees
As befits its status as a primary dining outlet on a modern university campus, Highland Market has a strong online and social media presence that includes Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter and is especially useful in broadcasting specials and new concepts.
Digital versions of the menu can also be accessed on the Student Union website and through the Tapingo app, which also offers pre-ordering for pick-up and delivery, a service that currently represents about 35% of the Market’s orders. One distinctive feature of the Tapingo online menu: It includes that secret burrito menu.
Highland Market was a test site for the Tapingo delivery program and now generates up to 650 orders a day, 55% for delivery and the rest for pickup, which UA says makes Highland Market the Tapingo Mobile App’s top delivery shop on any university campus. This spring, Tapingo launched an extension of its service at Highland Market with a kiosk option for in-store customers.
Highland Market was designed with an open layout that allows for high volumes of patrons to filter through easily. It currently averages about 2,300 customers a day and is UA’s highest grossing retail dining venue, bringing in almost $4 million annually with a check average of $8.12. That helps justify the round-the-clock service, which requires some 140 employees to maintain the operation.
Designed to provide a space where students, staff and faculty can congregate, Highland Market offers both indoor seating and an outdoor courtyard, while the serving area features an open design that allows customers to see their orders being prepared exhibition-style.
Contact Mike Buzalka at Mike.Buzlka@informa.com.
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