New food service opens

By Katy Nielsen

Café University, the new food vendor on campus, is currently in the soft launch phase of its three locations, and it is getting mixed feedback from its customers.

The cafes serve coffee and tea, chocolate chip scones, frosting-smothered cupcakes, glazed almond sprinkled croissants, baby spinach salads and roast beef sandwiches, but the cash registers do not work yet and the menus are handwritten on cardboard.

The three locations for the new cafes are the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave.; 1104 Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave.; and the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave.

Philip Tadros, the founder and chief executive officer of Philcoextra, the company that owns Café University, has worked closely with Columbia throughout the cafe’s opening process.

“We’re all trying to work together to make everybody happy,” Tadros said. “I feel like in a couple weeks things at the cafe are going to be awesome.”

Tadros owns several coffee shops in Chicago including Noble Tree Cafe, 2444 N. Clark St.; Dollop Café, 4181 N. Clarendon Ave.; and Chase Café, 7301 N. Sheridan Ave. Coffee served at Café University comes from the Metropolis Coffee Company Chicago.

With experience in managing businesses, Tadros said it takes time before a company can run smoothly.

Communication between the college and Café University has created some delays for the vendor’s official opening. Tadros said his company and the college keep an open dialogue because the café’s cash registers, microwaves and plumbing facilities are Columbia owned.

Only one cafe, located in the Alexandroff Campus Center, is equipped with a microwave and toaster for student use. Microwaves at the other locations were removed.

“There are some things that are our responsibility, and there are some things that are not,” Tadros said. “The microwaves are not our business.”

According to Café University’s Regional Manager Katie Bezrouch, some electrical and plumbing problems the school is in charge of repairing have delayed the launch, which include electrical repairs needed to be made by the college’s electricians.

“It is a work in progress,” Bezrouch said. “We’re still working out the kinks.”

Another reason Café University delayed its official launch was because of its promise to hire student baristas, Tadros said.

“We had to spend a lot of our time in the beginning making sure students know how to make drinks,” Tadros said. “We take espresso and coffee very seriously.”

Tadros promised Columbia the cafes would accept credit cards, campus cards, keep prices affordable, keep food quality high and hire only Columbia students as workers. Most of these expectations have been met.

“Café University accepts credit cards and campus cards as promised,” said John Trierweiler, president of the Student Government Association. “However, the point-of-sale system that reads credit cards and campus cards is not working yet. Baristas are writing down student ID and credit card numbers.”

Andy Tokarski, junior marketing communications major, has worked at Café University for two weeks and said people who buy the food really enjoy it and come back.

“The food is very high quality, and the price reflects that,” Tokarski said. “We get it fresh every morning from Southport Grocery, and the products are organic and vegan.”

The quality may be high, but some students have complained about the prices.

Egle Bankauskaite, sophomore interior architecture major, said she was upset green tea costs $2.

“I’ll come back but not for food because it’s so expensive,” Bankauskaite said.

All the sandwiches and salads are made fresh every morning. It costs $7 for an iced coffee and a prosciutto sandwich.

“I don’t know how we can give people the same quality if we lower prices,” Tadros said.

Kelsey Kreiling, senior fashion design major, comes to the cafe almost every day because she works in the Wabash Campus Building. Kreiling said the issue is not the food’s price but having the food available when the building opens.

“I definitely like the food and the coffee, but in the mornings they haven’t been able to iron out when things are getting delivered,” Kreiling said. “I’ll come here, and they won’t have any food yet.”

Once the cafe starts functioning more smoothly, Tadros said he plans to add new food options to the menu. This is good news for people who miss the hot sandwiches and pizza Plum Cafe offered. However, prices at the cafes will not change.

“We’re going to have more pasta salads and parfaits,” Tadros said. “We’re going to have more breakfast options, pizzas and paninis.”

Café University has been open two weeks, and Bezrouch said most of the feedback has been positive.

“We’re really proud of our coffee and our food,” Bezrouch said. “We just hope people like us.”

Additional reporting by Assistant Campus Editor Shardae Smith