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PHILADELPHIA-Aramark Corp. has begun the rollout of Bleecker Street Café, a new fast-casual restaurant brand for college campuses. Described as an “urban-style bakery concept,” it features loft-like décor and serves fresh-baked breads and pastries, sandwiches, soups and salads.

Four units are in operation, and a spokeswoman tells GlobeSt.com an additional 10 will open in spring 2007. This marks the beginning of a national rollout, she says. Locally based Aramark’s higher education division provides food, facility and support services to approximately 500 colleges and universities nationwide, but no definite number of anticipated Bleecker Street Café units has yet been determined.

This initiative from the higher education division follows the launch of Soluna Café & Bakery by the company’s healthcare division this September. Soluna is targeted to doctors, nurses, employees and visitors at large healthcare campuses. While the menus are similar, the spokeswoman says, the Bleecker Street Café concept is unrelated to Soluna.

“Our research told us that students were looking for more fast-casual dining options on campus, especially fresh-baked goods and gourmet-style sandwiches,” says Karen Parker, national marketing director of the higher education division, in a statement. “Our goal was to develop a brand that leverages the retail industry’s best practices, allowing us to provide students with relevance and value while also creating a connection for the campus community.”

The campuses at which Bleecker Street Cafes opened this fall are East Carolina University in Greenville, NC; University of Delaware in Newark, DE; University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and University of Southern Maine in Portland. The spokeswoman says some are in existing campus facilities, such as food courts, while others are freestanding units on campus properties. The sizes vary by location.

The brand was developed in Aramark’s 53,000-sf Innovation Center here. According to Parker, the company conducted a survey of students, faculty and staff at four-year universities nationwide, and she reports that more than 75% of the respondents indicated that they were likely to purchase at Bleecker Street Café.

Aramark is a worldwide provider of food service, facilities management and career apparel to universities, school districts, stadiums, arenas, healthcare facilities and businesses. The Fortune 500 company has operations in 20 countries.

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