Northwest is expecting to see construction start in the Station next week as it prepares to open a new restaurant potentially at the beginning of the spring 2019 semester.

Mooyah, an international, casual burger brand, signed a licensing contract through Aramark and will be put in place of Papa John’s.

Aramark performed a market match process in spring 2017 to check where the heartbeat of the University was in terms of food. That market match consisted of surveys, focus groups, interviews and tracking traffic patterns.

Aramark General Manager Spencer Martin said from the market match, Aramark was able to determine a recommendation for the University.

“We took results from the market match and brought those to the University,” Martin said. “The University, it’s their property. It’s their campus and they move forward based on assumptions we make based on what the students want.”

Papa John’s was the No. 1 brand students listed they would like to see changed to another brand. Martin said replacing Papa John’s made the most sense, with other options for pizza available around Maryville like Dominos, Pizza Hut and Bearcat Commons.

Through market match, Aramark also asked what type of food would be best suited for campus. The top answer was a sub sandwich shop, the second highest request was a grill burger joint. The results were close, with about a 2 percent difference.

“My goal with the whole thing is basically driving student satisfaction,” Martin said. “It’s difficult but at the same time, our job becomes easy because we just ask ‘What do you guys want?’ And it’s our job to try and deliver it.”

Papa John’s left campus at the conclusion of the spring 2018 semester, leaving the Station without a restaurant to start out this fall semester.

“Everyone left last spring for the summer without knowing anything about Mooyah coming,” Martin said. “It was intentional to start the semester without Mooyah just because no one is going to know about it. We were going to use that time to drive excitement and do some opening events and do sampling, and giveaways and stuff like that.”

While having a period with no restaurant in the Station was intentional, it was not meant to be without for this long.

Director of Facility Services Allen Mays said they are behind on the schedule for opening Mooyah, there is no set opening date right now. The opening date has moved a couple of times due to contractor specifics and requirements.

“With every project you have ups and downs,” Mays said. “When you’re working with external parties, especially when there’s a franchise involved, there’s a lot of requirements associated with contracts and branding and using franchises, that requires additional time.”

Construction of Mooyah will take six to eight weeks to complete. Mays said he was hoping to have construction finished sometime in November.

“The next step is construction,” Mays said. “We’ll see some perimeter walls go up, we’ll probably have displays on them, an image or two of what Mooyah is going to look like. It’ll say coming soon and when it is expected to open. Behind these walls, we’re going to be working on the whole space.”

Mooyah’s menu consists of a variety of burgers, fries and shakes. Martin said Mooyah has quality food; 100 percent Angus beef burgers that are fresh never frozen, buns that are baked fresh every morning and milkshakes with all-natural ingredients.

“I’m at the ready-to-pounce stage,” Martin said. “When we find out when the Mooyah is scheduled to open, that’s when we’ll start seeing all of the releases. We’re trying to get closer to that deadline of when it will be and then all of our promotional stuff will be scheduled out from that opening date.”

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