With blenders humming and steam belching over the lively bustle of patrons, Rebel Grounds feels like your typical university coffee shop. But look past the trendy vibe, and you’ll notice there’s a lot more going on.
Nestled in Hospitality Hall, within the warmly lit walls of the MGM Resorts International Café, Rebel Grounds serves up delicious fare while giving its Hospitality College student staff the space to turn classroom theory into practice. This, along with its central location and playful menu items, makes Rebel Grounds a favorite stop for students, campus visitors, and UNLV faculty and staff.
“It’s nice that I can take a break on campus and go see the students practice what they are learning in class,” said Afsha Bawany, communication director for the College of Urban Affairs. “As UNLV employees, it’s great that we have the opportunity to support students and make every moment a teaching experience.”
That’s the idea, says Hospitality College executive chef Mark Sandoval, whose Rebel Grounds staff/manager teams oversee everything from food preparation, design, and café décor to handling cash, training staff, and setting work schedules. As menu items rotate, students also are charged with developing new recipes, participating in taste-tests, and promoting new products.
“They’re essentially learning how to run a business,” Sandoval said. “Plus, they’re gaining experience on how to provide great customer service, which is what the hospitality industry is all about.”
Also on the menu is sustainability, which not only helps Rebel Grounds stand out from campus competitors but also serves as a vital educational component, given the hospitality industry’s push toward eco-consciousness. Besides using recycled paper products, Rebel Grounds incorporates high-quality, locally sourced products into its menu selections, which involves partnering with local companies Desert Wind Coffee, Vesta Coffee, and Colorado River Coffee Roasters for its coffee.
Educational and sustainability initiatives aside, Rebel Grounds’ fun assortment of drinks and bites are just plain tasty, said hospitality student/barista Adrian Ku.
“The reviews are really positive. Our Monty Sando (sandwich), lavender lemonade, and Earl Grey lavender latte are all really popular,” Ku said. “Working with Chef Mark, we’re always experimenting with new flavors, and I think customers really like that we keep the menu fresh. There’s nowhere else on campus where people get that.”
See for yourself, as Rebel Grounds is open during the fall and spring semesters in Hospitality Hall from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Fridays.