Since last January, at least five Asian restaurants have opened in Dinkytown, and another is set to open this summer. Bonchon, a casual Korean fried chicken chain that originated in South Korea, will open at the former Vescio’s site in late August. While the area has long had a diverse mix of restaurants, commercial real estate broker Marshall Nguyen attributes the recent influx of ethnic restaurants to the University of Minnesota’s increasing numbers of international students.
“There is a growing population of different cultures at the U that are looking for fast, easy food,” says Nguyen, vice president of business development at Edina-based Caspian Group. Nguyen helped franchisee Sam Zheng secure Bonchon’s Dinkytown location.
This past fall, 6,363 international students from 130 countries were enrolled at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campuses—over 12 percent of the student body. In fact, undergraduate student enrollment has shifted quite a bit in the last decade. In fall 2006, there were 434 international undergrad students enrolled at the U, compared to 2,816 in fall 2017. Overall, international students accounted for 8.9 percent of the total undergraduate enrollment in 2017, compared with 1.5 percent in 2006.
The U, to date, is not actively seeking to influence the business/services mix near campus, but is more of an observer of private sector initiatives. “Our unit and many others on campus are working together to determine how best to understand what has changed for our campus with the increase in the international student population,” says Barbara Kappler, assistant dean of the U’s International Student and Scholar Services, “so we can create a campus culture that is more aware and more responsive.”