Clarion, Pa.- Clarion Dining Services introduced its latest addition to the Gemmell Food Court, next to Gemmell Grinds, called Sono: Experience Latin. Sono is a Chartwells program that opened to the campus August 24.
Senior Director of Dining Services Jeffery MacTaggart described Sono as a cross between Chipotle and Taco Bell that offers “more profiles on food.”
He said the idea for Sono began with asking, “What could we do different? What is our clientele—students, faculty and staff—what are they looking for?”
Chartwells coordinated with Clarion Student Senate’s Student Facilities Committee and focus groups and found that many of the ideas had “that Chipotle-fling to it.” MacTaggart also cited the rising popularity of Latin, Mediterranean and “better-for-you” foods as influences.
He added that Stackers Deli has been on the decline since its beginnings in 2005-2006. “We thought we needed something different,” he said.
The process of implementing Sono started with speaking with Student Affairs Vice President Susanne Fenske and the dining services liaison. University President Karen Whitney also had to approve. MacTaggart said Chartwells also had to look at the pros and cons to make sure the equipment and labor was available and examine the cost.
Before Sono’s official opening, Chartwells held a well-received “soft opening” for the campus’s community assistants and international students.
Aside from increasing traffic in Gemmell, MacTaggart said he wanted to see an official Latin American dining option at Clarion University.
Sono offers Latin American-inspired menu options including burrito bowls, taco combinations, tortas, chips and salsa or guacamole. It also serves breakfast, with choices including breakfast burritos, English muffins, oatmeal and hash browns.
“What’s nice about the program is that it doesn’t come out of a box, it has to be all freshly chopped and cooked,” MacTaggart said. Adding that these selections are only half of what Sono can potentially offer, he said he would like to expand if students are interested.
Sono has been met with generally positive reactions from Clarion students. Junior Communication Major Brana Hill said she likes that Clarion is making an effort to be more diverse. “It’s important that we take into consideration that we offer what students want and take into consideration that not everyone likes the same thing.”
Sophomore Early Childhood and Special Education major Morgan Gober said, “I feel like it brings some culture to Clarion…a little Latin flair is good.”
MacTaggart said Chartwells is pleased with how Sono has been received so far. “The more important question is: are students and customers pleased…is what it really boils down to.”