Campus Saint-Jean (CSJ)’s faculty association is looking at a student-run cafeteria after students were unhappy with current options due to their high price and small portions.
The decision to look into starting a student-run cafeteria comes after operation of the cafeteria changed hands from Aramark to Café Bicyclette last year, as well as student disappointment with the price point of current cafeteria options. Now, CSJ’s faculty association, l’Association des Universitaires de la Faculté Saint-Jean (AUFSJ), is exploring a partnership with the Students’ Union’s catering kitchen to open a student-operated cafeteria at CSJ.
Until last year when their contract ran out, the cafeteria food at CSJ was supplied by Aramark. However, there were concerns about the price of the food for the quality students were receiving, said Adam Brown, current Students’ Union vice-president (external) and former AUFSJ president.
At the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, Aramark only offered poutine as a warm lunch, as well as boxed salads and sandwiches. Additionally, the employees of the cafeteria didn’t speak French, which was an issue for the faculty as they encourage students to speak French as much as possible, Brown said.
“I was president of AUFSJ at the time, and I had students, faculty, the dean, all coming to me saying ‘This is not good,’” Brown said.
AUFSJ surveyed students, staff and faculty, asking what kinds of food they wanted in the cafeteria and what they were willing to pay for it. The most common responses included salads, sandwiches and wraps, with an average price point between $5 and $10.
Brown said the faculty then started looking into getting a private vendor to provide quality food at a good price, and in French.
In an email comment from Ancillary Services, they said the decision to discontinue Aramark’s operation of the cafeteria in May 2018 was made “after receiving feedback from the faculty and operational staff at Campus Saint-Jean.”
Tahra Haddouche, Students’ Council representative for CSJ, said Café Bicyclette, a local French coffee shop and bakery, then took over the cafeteria in late September 2018. However, Café Bicyclette provided expensive food in small portions, she said, and students aren’t buying it. According to Haddouche, Café Bicyclette was supposed to have ceased operation at the end of last semester, but are still in operation.
Emma Ripka, Students’ Union vice-president (operations and finance), said after a few months in operation, it was clear Café Bicyclette was unsustainable as the cafeteria provider. She added that they were running a large deficit, and the university ended up subsidizing the operation.
That is when the faculty approached AUFSJ to look into what it would take to have a student-run cafeteria at CSJ.
“We were really leaning towards it, we’re very happy to hear that option for us, and as soon as we heard that we just started getting to work doing some research on what we had to do,” Haddouche said.
Ancillary Services also commented that Dining Services “continues to work with CSJ to determine an operation that best suits their needs for the future.”
Haddouche and the current president of AUFSJ, Eric Einarson, met with the Students’ Union to look into how they can help them create a by-students, for-students cafeteria. They met with the SU’s manager of business development to get information about potentially working with Horowitz Catering, the SU’s catering business, as well as the practical requirements for the cafeteria to be in operation, such as food training and insurance, Haddouche said.
“It’s still very preliminary, we’re nowhere near actually putting a student-run cafeteria in, although that’s the goal,” she said.
However, Ripka said there are some challenges in Horowitz Catering providing the food for the CSJ cafeteria, such as the delivery methods. There are requirements for how long hot food can be out before it needs to be replaced, and so they’re looking at more grab and go options or reheatable foods.
Ripka added that the Students’ Union is very happy to be able to help AUFSJ in this way, but that the running of the student cafeteria will still be in the hands of the faculty association.
“It will be pretty autonomously run by AUFSJ, and so as a faculty association, they will be running a self-op[eration] but we will be the providers of the products,” she said.