Online food service offers healthy campus alternative

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Quentin Cantu

With a campus dominated by fried chicken sandwiches and cheap Mexican food, UT felt like the perfect place for MBA students Quentin Cantu and Brian Murphy to serve healthy food from their new business, Ranch Hand.   

“The concept behind Ranch Hand is Texas-based proteins along with greens, grains, herbs and nuts,” Cantu said. “It satisfies a lot of nutritional requirements for a healthy meal much more so than any other place on campus can do.”  

Currently, Cantu and Murphy are delivering fresh meat and veggie bowls on Monday and Wednesdays to students who place orders through their website. While it’s a modest start for their new business, they are in negotiations to operate a food truck on campus starting on June 1st on Speedway and 21st.

“We’ll be spending the summer outfitting and equipping a trailer,” Murphy said. “We’ll be there two days a week and then we’ll be in the UT
Catholic Center lot across from the fountain for five days a week.”

The idea to start their own campus food service came to Cantu and Murphy when they couldn’t find companies they were passionate enough to
work for. 

“We started in November and (job) recruiting season was just ramping up at that point,” Cantu said. “We were interested in food and a lot of the food companies that were recruiting on campus were companies that have a presence in the SAC that we fundamentally disagreed with.”

They were also generally disappointed with the restaurant options UT’s campus had to offer. Cantu said he finds it incredible that restaurants like Wendy’s or Chik-fil-A are the only things offered to a campus of over 55,000 students, and takes particular issue with O’s Cafe’s Bevo burger. 

“The UT namesake meal at O’s Café is a Bevo burger, which is a patty, fried chicken tenders, fried onion rings, barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese all on a buttered bun,” Cantu said. “The name is supposed to evoke the vibe of Texas, but that meat doesn’t come from Texas. The fact that that’s the namesake meal for six different locations across campus should tell you that there’s something wrong.”

Cantu said he wants options on campus to evoke a more positive and healthy view of Texas because he believes the state has a lot to be proud of in terms of good food. 

“We want to show people that Texas has a great thing going for it, and that’s its meat,” Cantu said. “Maine has lobster, Louisiana has shellfish in general, what does Texas have? It has ranches and it has meats. So we can showcase that and it doesn’t have to be in the form of barbecue or Tex-Mex or all these things that are obviously unhealthy for you.” 

Murphy said a business like theirs is a no-brainer since college is a vital time for people to be mindful of what goes in their bodies. 

“At this point in kids’ lives, there are such high-stress situations, there are late nights, and it’s worse if you’re powering your body with junk food,” Murphy said. “We kind of owe it to the students to give them a better option because it’s just not fair.”

Although they aspire to eventually move into the greater Austin area with a brick-and-mortar establishment, Cantu and Murphy don’t ever want to cut their ties to the
UT community. 

“We think that the Austin market in general is also very favorable for us,” Cantu said. “We really want to continue to serve the UT community no matter what, though, because we’re products of that community.”