George Mason University


News at Mason

Fast-casual dining comes to the Fairfax Campus

August 24, 2017   /   by Damian Cristodero

If all goes according to plan, students, faculty and staff will be able to walk up to any of the four new restaurants in George Mason University’s Johnson Center and walk away with high-quality, customized meals in a few minutes.

It sounds like a mission impossible, especially when the first surge of crowds appear on the Fairfax Campus, Monday, Aug. 28, the first day of classes. But Mark Kraner, executive director of George Mason’s campus retail operations, is cautiously confident.

“We’ve got to come up to speed, and the staffs are training right now,” Kraner said. “We have backup staffs. Everything is there.”

The new Johnson Center restaurants are Blaze Pizza, which boasts NBA superstar LeBron James as an investor, Garbanzo (Mediterranean, Halal meats) and Steak ‘n Shake.

Add Akeno, a sushi restaurant in the former Taco Bell space in SUB I, and a pared-down menu at the Rathskeller that features salads, sandwiches and burgers, and it is clear Mason has embraced fast-casual dining.

Students, faculty and staff asked for that option, including restaurants that offer authentic flavors, in several surveys and focus groups, Kraner said.

“They talked and we listened,” he said. “We’re trying to hit all the notes those focus groups gave us.”  

Find out when the restaurants are open at

What isn’t immediately coming to the Johnson Center is the much-anticipated Chipotle, the construction of which has been held up by permitting delays. Kraner said he expects Chipotle will be open in January, when students return from winter break.

“We have been inundated with questions as to when they will open. It’s just amazing,” he said. “People care less about the rest of the world, they want to know when that’s going to open.”

The delay hasn’t changed the bottom line for Kraner.

“We have brought in a lot of high-end services [and] quality products to the campus,” he said. “We’ve pushed to move forward and look at the needs of the campus, to meet those needs and exceed expectations.”