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Vinnie Crispino knows food and balloons

Date: 11/01/2012

If you have ever eaten in the Corbett Center Student Union Food Court, you have probably seen, if not met, Vinnie Crispino.

This is a head and shoulders photo of VInnie Crispino, Sodexo retail dining director at NMSU.
Vinnie Crispino serves NMSU as the Sodexo retail dining director, managing Subway, Taco Bell, Chik-fil-A, the 3rd Floor Bistro at the Danny Villanueva Victory Club and Einstein Bagels, among others. He recently developed Gila Grill, located in the Corbett Center Student Union Food Court, and serving gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

Crispino serves New Mexico State University as the Sodexo retail dining manager, overseeing Subway, Taco Bell, Chik-fil-A, the 3rd Floor Bistro at the Danny Villanueva Victory Club and Einstein Bagels, among others on campus. And, he recently created and opened Gila Grill in the CCSU Food Court.

"Gila Grill is a unique dining concept for a university setting," he said. Crispino came up with the idea for Gila Grill, thinking, "What college kid doesn't love a grilled cheese sandwich?"

Crispino is an engaging and friendly presence on campus and might have been thinking of his childhood in New Jersey when he came up with the idea for Gila Grill, or maybe he was simply trying to anticipate what college students might really want in their food court. Either way, Gila Grill has quickly proven a popular food option for students.

"Although Chik-fil-A remains number one in sales for the food court, Gila Grill quickly moved into second place," said Katrina Miner, marketing director for Sodexo at NMSU.

Crispino is originally from New Jersey, but lived in Albuquerque for 25 years. He temporarily left the state to work for Sodexo at Montclair State University in New Jersey, but once he saw the Sodexo position advertised at NMSU, he knew that he had to return to the Land of Enchantment.

"In New Mexico, everybody's so friendly, and they smile at lot. It's so much different from back east," he said. "The students here are so pleasant. We don't have to work as hard at making students happy because here, they walk around happy."

Crispino credits his staff for the success of retail dining at NMSU.

"Our staff does a wonderful job. They've been here for a long time, even though Sodexo has not - they worked for the previous food service company. They've built a great rapport with the students," he said. "I think we offer a great value and I think that helps the students along."

Before working for Sodexo, Crispino had a job that kept him in the air much of the time - he flew balloons - but not just any balloons, the Budweiser balloons.

"I flew balloons for a living for six years. You're going to say, wow, that's exciting, but oh no, it has its ups and downs," he said with a laugh. "I've been a balloonist since 1976. I flew the Budweiser balloon. We actually had 10 different balloons for Bud - a can, a bottle, even a blimp. We flew them at every event you can possibly imagine - the Super Bowl, Indianapolis 500, in Hong Kong when they introduced the beer there, in Sweden, in Australia and even Chile - it was quite exciting."

Crispino says that he loves New Mexico and especially the people of NMSU.

"As far as my personal life, I am so glad to be back in New Mexico again," he said. "It really is the Land of Enchantment."

Written by Emily C. Kelley

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