Smashburger opens in LaFortune, Starbucks renovates
Rachel O'Grady | Friday, August 19, 2016
After 18 years in the LaFortune Student Center, Burger King was replaced this summer by Smashburger, a national fast-food chain specializing in burgers and shakes.
Jim LaBella, general manager of The Huddle, said sales so far have far exceeded their expectations.
“We were expecting to sell maybe 50 shakes a day, but we’ve already sold 300 today, so we’re ordering like crazy,” La Bella said.
LaBella is already placing the next food order, and he said the restaurant has been busy around the clock. In addition to the classic burgers, the restaurant serves chicken, salads and sides.
“It’s been crazy; we already need more of almost everything,” LaBella said. “Fortunately, you know, the supplier can come every day. They’re just in Grand Rapids, and they carry everything we need for Smashburger, so that’s great. There’s no guesswork involved.”
Feedback from customers so far has been positive as well, LaBella said, and lines have been long at nearly all hours.
“It’s going really well so far, so that’s been awesome,” he said.
LaBella has been with the University dining services for 23 years, and he said he thinks this was a good change for the student center.
“It was a long process to change from Burger King. We worked on it for about three years,” LaBella said. “There was student involvement, as far as the satisfaction with Burger King, and all that. Again, it was a really long process, we were talking about it for a really long time, and we took in a lot of input.”
Fortunately, LaBella said, the transition has been smooth.
“It’s been hectic because it’s been so busy,” he said. “The one thing I do want to say is that last week, we were in training with the Smashburger corporate people and it was great, just really phenomenal training. It was basically a week of training. They just locked us in here and we went on full blast.”
The Starbucks in the student center also underwent a major renovation over the summer, which added seating and expanded the work space. Additionally, the west entrance and steps into the building were remodeled over the summer.
LaBella said the construction is only just now finishing up.
“We only got fully moved in here [Wednesday],” LaBella said. “We were still screwing in some things, so [Wednesday] was the first day we were really open for business.”