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Kansas Wesleyan University

Kansas Wesleyan University (KWU) and JRI Hospitality announced a new collaboration on Thursday, one that will see JRI partner as the university’s new food service provider. The collaboration begins early this summer.

“We’re excited for this next chapter in the story of building the student experience,” said Dr. Matt Thompson, KWU president. “The food we serve our students is critical to the student experience. As we explored how best to serve students, we looked for an unparalleled partner who prioritized the source, quality and variety of the food we would serve our students. JRI Hospitality is an excellent community partner, a well-known representative of the region and a true friend of Kansas Wesleyan. Most importantly for this project, however, they provide great products and services with exceptional customer service. Our students know JRI Hospitality’s brands and understand the quality those brands stand for, thanks to the products they franchise. As we open the renovated and expanded Bieber Dining Hall this fall, we’re thrilled to welcome them to the KWU family in this new fashion and to continue to develop the relationship between our organizations.”

JRI Hospitality has hired Kevin O’Brien to lead the work at KWU. O’Brien is known in this region as an innovator in food service and brings a breadth of experience to this role. He was the lead chef in opening the Renaissance Café and Barolo Grille, and was the previous food and beverage director at the Salina Country Club.

O’Brien began his adult life in Salina, attending Marymount before moving to Oklahoma where he graduated from Oklahoma State University’s Culinary Arts and Hotel and Restaurant Management Program. He then began working with a variety of talented chefs, including one from Belgium and another from Tuscany. Through these experiences, O’Brien opened Biga, an authentic Northern Italian restaurant owned by the Bodean Group in Tulsa. In 2000, he returned to Salina to continue his culinary career.

“JRI Hospitality shares our commitment to locally sourced foods, menu offerings that meet the needs of our active student population in a way that caters to their personal health needs and providing work opportunities for our students,” added Thompson. “Kevin’s expertise and commitment to quality will define the unique new food service on campus. We are thrilled about what all this means to the future of the KWU student experience. Today is another great day to be a Coyote!”

JRI Hospitality is known by many for its brands such as Mokas Coffee & Eatery and the Salina Country Club, as well as its status as one of the top franchisers of the Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburger brand in the country. However, it also prioritizes community involvement and giving back.

JRI Hospitality is the naming-rights partner for JRI Stadium, KWU’s football, soccer and track and field facility, and has assisted with improvements to Mabee Arena in the past, as well. The firm is also part of KWU’s Community Resilience Hub by way of its Quail Creek Family Farms and has supported other regional events and organizations including Abilene’s Wild Bill Hickok Rodeo, the Salina Arts Center, Salina Skyfire and more.

“JRI continues to find ways to be involved in supporting the Salina community and this is another example,” said Jason Ingermanson, president and CEO of JRI Hospitality. “We’re thrilled with our partnership to support and facilitate the elevation of Kansas Wesleyan student dining and look forward to the impact of healthy, hearty meals for all student dining and KWU campus activities as well as providing specially designated nutrition for each of the sports programs at KWU.”

The community is invited to join JRI and KWU this fall to experience the next level of campus dining in the soon-to-be-opened Bieber Dining Hall. More information on an opening date will be released in the coming weeks.

ABOUT KWU: Kansas Wesleyan University is a private nonprofit four-year college in Salina, Kan., and affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Its mission is to promote and integrate academic excellence, spiritual development, personal well-being and social responsibility. KWU provides an educational program characterized by excellence, within a caring community, rooted in the liberal arts tradition, that includes 16 academic departments and a wide range of majors. KWU’s Music program and debate teams have been especially successful, with debaters winning more than 65 national championships and graduates of the music program securing positions all over the U.S. ­­Multiple athletic teams have advanced to national tournaments in recent years, and the Athletic Department’s cumulative GPA has exceeded 3.0 for the past two years. For more information, visit 1e.linkosec.net.

ABOUT JRI Hospitality: Founded in 2011, JRI Hospitality owns and operates more than 90 restaurants in 15 states including Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, Mokas Coffee & Eatery, Chompie’s Restaurants & Deli, Ingermanson Farms and The Salina Country Club. The company’s focus on quality and hospitality is helping fuel the demand for its brands. In response, JRI continues to expand its reach with several projects slated this year, and a robust pipeline of projects in the coming years. For more information, visit www.jriusa.com.