Cafe University makes changes

By Alexandra Kukulka

Cafe University is back in business in three locations on campus this year for students to grab a bite to eat between classes: the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave.; the Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave; and the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave.

This year, much has changed at the cafes including prices, menu items, the student worker policy and construction.

“I think we’re good,” said Phillip Tadros, owner of the cafes. “Sales are up, and people definitely seem to be enjoying what we are offering. It’s definitely hard to please everybody because we are trying to make things high quality and affordable, which is always a challenge.”

According to Tadros, the cafes now have “fancier sandwiches and salads.” The food this year is better quality and is always fresh, he added.

This improvement in food quality did not raise the price, Tadros said, but actually lowered it. The decrease in price is a way to look out for the students, he added.

“We are trying to connect with students and have it be affordable, good quality and have it be student-run,” Tadros said. “Letting it be student-run is an obstacle to try and make it work out with everybody’s schedules.”

Cafe University is new to Columbia’s campus, replacing Plum Cafe in 2010. The Student Government Association is in charge of selecting the cafes on campus. According to Cassandra Norris, SGA president, the administration goes through the cafe applications and leaves the final two bidders for the association to choose.

Administration officials The Chronicle contacted were unable to say who was responsible for making Cafe University one of the two finalists competing with Plum Cafe, which sought a contract renewal.

It was important to SGA to select a cafe that was willing to hire student workers, according to Norris. Plum Cafe wasn’t asked to come back because it wasn’t flexible in its prices, menu and student employment. While Cafe University is flexible and student-run, it has generated the same complaints about its student hiring process as other employers, as reported by The Chronicle on Oct. 3. Some students have reported receiving notice of being hired but are never scheduled to start work.

“Nothing was fishy to us when they came on campus,” Norris said. “We went off of what we thought would benefit the students as a whole. If any of that has changed, that is unfortunate.”

According to Norris, SGA took three things into consideration when selecting a cafe: price, variety and the presentation that the companies made to the council. If the company seemed like it really wanted the job and didn’t want to take student money and run, then SGA approved,

Norris said.

“The [cafe] on campus now, their prices at the time were reasonable, their presentation was good, it was well put together, they brought us samples and their menu was extremely flexible [and] diverse,”

Norris said.

According to Tadros, the prices are still reasonable this year because of better food quality, which Norris thinks will benefit students on campus.

“I think [the cafes] will make nutrition more accessible,” Norris said. “I know I skip breakfast occasionally, or I skip lunch, just because I only have [30 minutes] between classes, so this will make food more accessible.”

According to Nyle Fisher, general manager of the cafes, there are also some health code standards that the Wabash Campus Building space must be satisfied before it can be opened.

“We are waiting on certain things that need to be done that the college forgot to put in—like a mop sink, and things like that—that we need in order to open,” Fisher said.

Cafe University should be up and running soon, Tadros said.

“The hold up on the Wabash Campus Building was because there was construction and [the cafe] was moved to the other side of the building,” Tadros said. “The city requested that we apply for a new license, even though our new one was in good standing, so that took a little bit of time. We are approved, and we are just waiting on a couple [of] tweaks from the school. We should be live very soon.”

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.