Just two weeks ago, students made it past the aromas of Panda Express’ Beijing beef, the allure of Chick-fil-A’s spicy chicken sandwiches and the salads of Field of Greens to find a place as empty as their growling stomachs.
On Thursday, May 31, UT’s contract with Wendy’s expired, and the Union Wendy’s closed its doors once and for all. Although UT and Wendy’s agreed to renew their contract for another five years, Wendy’s decided to keep only the Jester Wendy’s, also known as “Jendy’s,” because it was more profitable, said Mulugeta Ferede, University Unions executive director.
“We’ve worked with Wendy’s for so long, it was an easy partnership,” Ferede said.
Students took to Facebook and Twitter to pay their respects to the late restaurant. Chemical engineering senior Maya Venkataraman compared her and the student body’s outpouring of grief to what would follow the passing of a beloved celebrity.
“(Union Wendy’s closure) isn’t one of those things that affects me personally, but it’s like an, ‘Aw, man! Anne Hathaway died? That’s crazy!’” Venkataraman said. “It’s kind of like, ‘Aw, man! The Union Wendy’s closed? That’s crazy.’”
Ferede assured that Jendy’s will remain open for at least five more years, but some students such as Venkataraman refuse to walk across campus to cop a 4 for $4 Meal.
“The whole reason I started going to the Union Wendy’s was because of how convenient it was,” Venkataraman said. “I’m not willing to go to Jendy’s. I’m past that point in my life.”
Many paid their respects by recounting old memories of the former lunch spot. For example, Samantha Diwa met one of her closest college friends stopping by the Union Wendy’s during her break.
“I don’t think I would have gone there if it wasn’t for the cheap food that Wendy’s has,” Diwa, a radio-television-film sophomore, said. “So, thank you, Union Wendy’s, for bringing me one of my first college friends, because I might not have been able to meet her.”
On the other hand, Diwa is willing to let Union Wendy’s go if its vacancy opens up an opportunity for a new restaurant. She feels that offering the same restaurant at multiple locations, such as with the two Wendy’s locations previously on the 40 Acres, is redundant.
“If (UT) had more variety on campus, I would’ve enjoyed my time better,” Diwa said. “If there was one of each fast food place, you’d have so many choices.”
Restaurants such as Whataburger, P. Terry’s and even Chili’s have been suggested by students as acceptable substitutions. However, no official replacement has yet been named, and University Unions is currently researching interested vendors, Ferede said. Saffa Jethwa, a health and society sophomore, values Whataburger over other suggestions for its convenience and orange color scheme.
“Everyone loves Whataburger, and they have fish burgers and a lot of food options,” Jethwa said. “Plus, (Whataburger) is Texas-themed, too.”
As the online debate over its replacement dies down, Venkataraman worries that Union Wendy’s and its legacy will be forgotten.
“The Union Wendy’s meant something to people,” Venkataraman said. “It was a place where memories were made and friendships were formed. It’s sad when a place like that stops existing.”