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The University of Alabama

Bama Dining Plans New Options, Locations Based on Marketing Study

This rendering depicts proposed changes to the Ferguson Center Food Court.

This rendering depicts proposed changes to the Ferguson Center Food Court.

Working closely with faculty, staff and students, ARAMARK (known at UA as Bama Dining) recently completed a comprehensive planning system called MarketMATCH, created to tailor campus food service options to specific lifestyle needs and patterns.

During the study – part of UA’s overall master planning process – the ARAMARK team split the campus into 13 neighborhoods, then gathered data about each through interviews, chat rooms, focus groups, intercept surveys and online surveys. That information allowed them to propose dining solutions that will meet the major needs and requests that emerged.

Gina Johnson, UA’s associate vice president for auxiliary services, said, “This research ties in wonderfully with the growth situation on campus. Food is a big part of our community, and it’s a huge support mechanism for admissions.”

“[The MarketMATCH study] was really eye-opening,” said A.J. DeFalco, resident district manager for Bama Dining. “It identified exactly where we need to put new services.”

One recommendation that came as a surprise, Johnson said, is moving the Fresh Food Company from its current home in the Ferguson Center to a larger location that can better accommodate the number of daily customers. “It only has 225 seats, and it needs about 500,” Johnson said. Some changes, such as a brand-new dining venue at Lloyd Hall, a Subway sandwich shop in Bidgood Hall, and tweaks to menus and hours at various locations around campus, will appear in the near future. Additional long-range plans include transforming Doster Café into a casual eatery with ongoing involvement from College of Human Environmental Sciences faculty, staff and students; enhanced retail options in the Ferguson Center Food Court; and a grab-and-go spot in the ten Hoor Hall area.

The study also revealed increasing interest in sustainable dining, an initiative already set in motion largely through the efforts of UA food service administrator Kristina Hopton-Jones. A number of environmentally friendly practices and products – such as recycled paper goods, trayless dining in certain locations, composting, bulk condiments and electric golf carts for transport – are in place, with more on deck. Bama Dining also will upgrade its food service technology, including a Web-based ordering system.

DeFalco stressed the importance of using resources such as MarketMATCH to be as proactive as possible in providing optimal dining choices across campus.

“Other colleges and universities visit us all the time for ideas,” Johnson said. “We’re pretty far ahead, and we’ve got to stay ahead. That’s what MarketMATCH will do for us.”