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Sept. 5, 2013
Brand names like Starbucks, Papa John’s and Chick-fil-A were instantly familiar to most people when Northwest Missouri State University announced plans to redesign its Campus Dining model last spring. Zen, which serves fresh Asian cuisine at Northwest’s J.W. Jones Student Union, may not have the name recognition yet, but it’s founder is working hard to change that.
Adam Weisberg, an entrepreneur, launched Zen in 1999 after relocating to Austin, Texas, and determining a market for grab-and-go Asian cuisine. He spent the last two weeks of August at Northwest, helping to open his newest store and teaching its new staff how to prepare Zen’s signature menu items.
“Nobody was doing grab-and-go sushi, rolling it fresh throughout the day,” Weisberg said of opening his first store. “Nobody was doing Asian fast food. So by creating Zen, I was trying to fill an un-filled need in the Austin market, and we were successful at it.”
Weisberg’s concept has evolved over the years, and the Northwest Zen is his fourth location. It’s the first outside of Texas.
The Northwest location is one of two Zen “express models” that Weisberg has helped open on university campuses. The other was established at The University of Texas at Austin after Aramark, which also provides Campus Dining services to Northwest, surveyed stakeholders about an Asian venue, and customers overwhelmingly suggested Zen.
“There aren’t too many people doing what we do within the Asian realm and especially offering healthy sushi and marinated salads,” Weisberg said, noting Zen’s commitment to healthy eating. “We also offer all-natural chicken breast, which is important to us. We make a lot of our sauces and marinades on premises. We want the taste and we want the ingredients to be better than anyone else.”
Not only is Weisberg redefining fast food, he’s breaking away from the traditional dark woods and Buddhist symbolism of most Asian restaurants. Instead, Zen restaurants feature a robotic theme supplemented by blue and red tones.“We decided to present a different tone of Japan,” Weisberg said. “We are aiming for fun and whimsical. Hopefully customers feel the energy when they’re walking up, too.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
firstname.lastname@example.org | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900
Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468