What the Fork Changed in the Caf?

Returning students are beginning to notice the slight changes Bon Appétit has enacted in the Market Café starting this semester. The modifications range from the addition of breakfast burritos to the price increase for to-go boxes. 

The standard Flexi meal plan this semester is $2,470, up $60 from last semester’s price.

Along with Flexi, the cost of the majority of caf food and to-go boxes have increased as well, from 55 cents to 75 cents. Garrett O’Doherty, the USF administrator who oversees the caf, said the three increases were in line with the consumer price index (CPI), which is a benchmark that measures changes in price for the same items over time.

USF’s contract with Bon Appétit, its sole food vendor, allows Bon Appétit to adjust prices on pace with the CPI. O’Doherty noted that USF has “a very collaborative working relationship [with Bon Appétit] and that all decisions are reviewed.” He clarified that USF acts in an oversight role and is not involved in Bon Appétit’s day-to-day operations.

One of the biggest changes that Hilltop veterans will notice is that the caf’s plates have slimmed down — they are now a narrow, rectangular shape rather than their previous square design.  

Bon Appétit made the change in plate size because the new, narrower form is easier for workers to handle when serving food, according to O’Doherty. He added that there has not been a reduction in portion size.

Sophomore Noa Gross disagreed. She said she finds it hard to eat off the narrower plates and feels that she is getting smaller portions, despite paying more for the meal plan than she did last year. 

Are kids full after eating?

Noa Gross

The majority of the serving stations at the caf no longer have cups of plastic utensils for students to take — now, at these stations, students have to verbally ask for these utensils. They are then given an individually plastic-wrapped package that contains a plastic knife, spoon, fork, and paper napkin. 

O’Doherty explained that the packaged utensils were implemented to combat sustainability issues caused by “patrons grabbing handfuls of utensils for one meal. [Bon Appétit] determined it to be more efficient to hand out one package per meal.”

Richard Hsu, head of the Office of Sustainability, noted that the change in plastic utensils seems to goes against the University’s stance of moving away from disposables and that he believes it is “counterintuitive to offer three utensils” to every diner. He believes that Bon Appétit and the Office of Sustainability should work together to change patrons’ behaviors by encouraging them to take only what they need “before switching to a less sustainable option.”

The Foghorn also discovered that these packaged utensils are marked as non-compostable — last year, the to-go utensils were compostable. After reaching out to O’Doherty for comment, he said he was previously unaware that the new packaged utensils were non-compostable, and that there was an issue with the supplier as they are meant to be compostable. At the time of print, the packaged utensils have been pulled as a result of the Foghorn’s reporting.

The Foghorn also discovered that these packaged utensils are marked as non-compostable — last year, the to-go utensils were compostable.

At the grill station, Bon Appétit got rid of the standard burger menu option, which originally came with lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a slice of onion. O’Doherty said this change was made because the lettuce, tomato, and onion slice were often thrown away. The updated menu has a basic plain burger at $5.50, which includes a bun and patty, and a deluxe version that is $7, which comes with lettuce, tomato, and onion in addition to the bun and patty.

David Samia, a sophomore who used to enjoy the caf’s burgers, no longer plans to order them. “I feel as though it’s a cheap move that punishes students that want to have extra stuff on their burger. The burger is already more expensive than some off-campus places, so the extra cost is unnecessary.”

Major changes to the breakfast slate include the introduction of breakfast burritos as well as the removal of a breakfast station — where there were two in previous years, there is now only one. 

“Bon Appétit is testing an express line that consists of breakfast burritos and the crowd favorite tater tots,” O’Doherty said. “There remains a full breakfast station. We are just hitting one month into service, so we continue to review and explore better and more efficient methods.”

O’Doherty emphasized that many of the changes made meals more affordable and accessible — he noted that the revamped Picante Mexican station includes new, cheaper menu items such as guacamole and chips. He also mentioned that the station that served gyros in spring 2019 may return, based on student interest, to increase the variety of food.

In light of all these changes, O’Doherty wants the community to know that all modifications were made in the best interest of faculty, staff, and students and that USF and Bon Appétit are trying their best “in the face of rising food and labor costs” to keep costs down.


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