Hospitality pondering future of The Lot, Campus Center dining choices


USC Hospitality says student feedback will be a major factor in determining what happens to The Lot and in what restaurants are given space in the new Ronald Tutor Campus Center.

Hospitality, with the help of the Undergraduate Student Government, has begun gauging student interest in restaurants that could occupy the Campus Center.

Not a lot · The future of The Lot, which features popular restaurants such as Baja Fresh and Wolfgang Puck, is still up in the air. - Dieuwertje Kast | Daily Trojan

Not a lot · The future of The Lot, which features popular restaurants such as Baja Fresh and Wolfgang Puck, is still up in the air. - Dieuwertje Kast | Daily Trojan

Hospitality is also debating what to do with The Lot, which was originally designed to be a temporary structure during construction on the campus center.

But Kris Klinger, the newly appointed director of USC Hospitality, said The Lot could remain if there is a use for it.

Klinger said if The Lot does stay, it will likely not be used for food services. But he said he wasn’t ruling anything out.

“The plan is not to continue to cook and serve food there, but that could always change,” Klinger said. “We won’t say never.”

Klinger said he would consider keeping The Lot if a student group approached Student Affairs or himself with an exceptional idea for how to use the space, whether it be as a study hall or meeting place.

The other option, he said, would be to rent out the space, which USC Hospitality owns, to an outside vendor.

“What we’re going to do with The Lot will be somewhat determined by groups and folks that are interested in it. We’ll see how things go over the next few months,” Klinger said.

John Baldo, the USG director of university affairs, said if USC Hospitality decides to keep The Lot, USG will also seek student feedback on how it should be used.

“We’re just waiting to hear if The Lot will stand, and then we’ll look at recommendations for that. At the moment, we’re rather unclear about it,” Baldo said.

Though no decisions have been made, Klinger said the chances of keeping The Lot are slim.

“More than likely it will close, and it will be a parking lot again or something else,” he said.

Ari Eryorulmaz, a sophomore majoring in industrial and systems engineering, said he did not see a reason to keep The Lot.

“It should be destroyed,” he said. “It’s ugly.”

Babak Oskouei, a fourth year graduate student studying aerospace and mechanical engineering, cited the noise inside The Lot, not aesthetics, as one reason The Lot frustrates him.

“It’s good USC is providing food in the middle of campus, but I prefer to get my food and then sit outside,” he said. “It’s pretty noisy even when just a few people are in there.”

If The Lot closed, some of its restaurants could be relocated to the new Campus Center or to Café 84, according to Klinger.

USG and the Graduate and Professional Students Senate distributed a survey last week to assess student interest in restaurants that could end up in the Campus Center.

The 20 restaurants listed on the survey were chosen by Hospitality as the top contenders for spots in the Campus Center. The list includes familiar names such as Carl’s Jr., Red Mango, Wolfgang Puck and Baja Fresh — all restaurants currently in The Lot.

Based on the results, Hospitality will decide whether or not to renew its contracts with the restaurants currently in The Lot.

“I think all of those restaurants came in wanting to show us what they were capable of doing if they weren’t already on campus so they could stay,” Klinger said, noting that the restaurants in The Lot have proven popular.

Much to Eryorulmaz and Oskouei’s chagrin, In-N-Out Burger was absent from the list of new options.

Klinger said though the university was interested in an agreement, In-N-Out was not because of its aversion to franchising. Baldo added that the popular West Coast haunt also requires a drive-through, and USC has no building that can support one.

Instead, Five Guys, a burger joint more popular on the East Coast, was presented as an option. Other choices included Panda Express, California Pizza Kitchen and Chick-fil-A.

“If there are enough students interested [in a restaurant], we’ll look into it,” Klinger said.

Klinger said he has already been in communication with some of the restaurants, but is waiting for feedback from students.

That feedback should be available soon, as Baldo said he expects to wrap up the student survey Friday. Hospitality will base a lot of its decisions on the survey results.

“No one has signed contracts and no one is locked in yet, so they’re really going to be listening to us,” Baldo said.