Cafe changes are brewing

By LauraNalin

After deciding not to renew its five year contract with Plum Cafe, the college’s leading vendor and event caterer,

Columbia recently formed a new partnership with Cafe University, owned by Philcoextra.

Currently, Plum Cafe is responsible for catering school and departmental events, and was the only permitted provider of catering services to the college.

However, with the implementation of the new contract with Philcoextra’s Cafe University, the incoming company will not provide any catering services. Campus events will now have to find catering outside of Columbia.

The new contract was the result of numerous proposals from more than 20 potential food service vendors throughout Chicagoland presented in September 2009. Potential candidates outlined possible menus,  prices and business alterations they’d make during a Senate assembly presentation. The new contract will go into effect as of June 1.

According to Tom Russel, director of administrative service and purchasing at Columbia, a survey was given to students, faculty, staff and administrators in an effort to determine what type of food service would satisfy the needs of the Columbia community.

Jessica Valerio, president of the Student Government Association, said although the SGA didn’t take a formal vote

following the proposals, they voted in an anonymous evaluation of the presentations.  Following the votes, the agreement of all constituent groups favored Cafe University.

Shortly after the vote, the college finalized a five-year contract with Philcoextra. Philip Tadros, founder and chiefexecutive officer of Philcoextra, is a Columbia graduate.  Tadros said he is looking forward to working with the college to ensure the cafes are places for students to relax and network with one another. He developed Cafe University after being selected by the college.

Tadros is the owner of numerous cafes throughout Chicagoland including Noble Tree Cafe, 2444 N. Clark St., Dollop Cafe, 4181 N. Clarendon Ave., and Chase Cafe, 7301 N. Sheridan Ave. He also owns Doejo, a 30-person Web consulting agency which specializes in design, development and marketing business.

Valerio said although the prices and definite business plans have not been fully decided, Tadros proposed to lower the prices, ensuring student affordability, which played a major role in the decision making process. She added they decided to choose Cafe University mainly because of four components in its sales pitch.

“The four biggest things we were considering were the price of food, which was a huge factor, the ability to hire student workers, student affordability and the ability to use debit and credit cards,” Valerio said. “We were also concerned about health issues, and this company is passionate about health concerns. They mainly use products from local farms and organic products. We were just thoroughly impressed by their proposal and we are excited to see the Columbia environment and the atmosphere we embody and envision come back to home base.”

According to Tadros, one of the main changes he plans to make within the campus’s three cafes are to clean up the interiors of the spaces, located in the Wabash Campus Building, 623 S. Wabash Ave.,  the 1104 Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave. and the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave.

“First and foremost, we want to be able to clean up and fix up the counter spaces,” Tadros said. “We want to redesign them so that it’s better for interacting with people. What’s going on now in the cafes doesn’t match what I know about the college or create the mood and environment of the school.”

According to Valerio, one of the main changes Tadros plans to make is facilitating the hiring of students.

“It should be all students,” Tadros said. “We want to hire students because they will connect the best to the school. It just makes sense that students would be working there.”

Valerio said she is eager to work with Tadros and feels the company is true to Columbia’s atmosphere, as well as the college’s mission.  She added that Tadros plans to brand the cafes, making them an integral part of Columbia’s environment.

“I’m excited to see what happens and work with campus environment,” Valerio said. “In the proposal, he suggested making each of them individual cafes, not just a place students need somewhere to eat, but some place you want to go, hang out and network with your friends and students in different departments. I think that is the kind of environment Philcoextra will be able to foster.”

Tadros said he looks forward to advancing his relationship with Columbia and work with the college the next few years.

“I’m really excited about working with the school,” Tadros said. “If anyone has questions about the cafe, lifewise or mediawise, I would love to see how I can help and be involved with the college and students.”