High Quality Bites: Good Food Comes With a Cost

Students who live on campus are quick to note that $7.25 for a bowl of pasta or $6.95 for a vegetarian sandwich feels a little steep.

For many returning students who are required to have a meal plan, money may feel especially tight this year. Because of tuition increases for the 2012-2013 school year, along with food inflation, the lowest meal plan price made available to freshmen and sophomores was raised $100 to $1,300 per quarter—and that doesn’t even cover three meals every day.

Bon Appetit Resident District Manager Buzz Hofford has been working with the company at Seattle U for the past 13 years, and he knows how much prices at Bon App change every year.

As Hofford explains, there are a few factors that determine the prices for each year. One of these factors is how comparable our prices our to our eight peer institutions, including Gonzaga University and University of Portland.
“When you look at the eight [peer schools], we have traditionally always been one of the lowest priced Board Plans out of the eight, even though some of the schools are in low-cost areas,” he explained.

As reported by Hofford, 60 percent of Bon App’s revenue on campus comes from the Board Plan, as the Board revenue allows Bon App to extend hours and have a variety of choices for the student body.
“Even after the increase in prices last year, we are still low to average compared to our peer institutions,” Hofford said. “If we can get the Board revenue up, that makes us better able to provide more options to the students.”

Hofford explains that the retail pricing for the items students buy on campus are really related to Bon App’s costs, regarding labor and product costs. Retail manager of The Cave Jeremiah Beckwith has been working with Seattle U’s food service since Saga was in charge of the food service in 1978, starting as a cook for $4.75 per hour. While Beckwith began at the school when there was still an all-you-can-eat program, he feels that the retail side of the food business has become much more effective.
“Bon App is the only food service I know of that caters to putting out the best product they can,” he said. “And when you’re putting out the best quality, it gets expensive.”

Hofford also says that not only do they have to make sure that they are getting business but that the people who provide the services at C-Street or the Bistro should also be taken care of.
“We promise our employees a living wage of $11.50 an hour, which is another way to show how our labor costs are high,” he said.

In Bon App’s management of business, Hofford states that the company focuses on the triple bottom line concept, which focuses on people, planet and profits.
“We’re really trying to strike that balance, and the pricing is one example of that,” he said.
“When you’re trying to give the best product for the least amount of money and prices of food are going up so high,” Beckwith said.

Yet some students are still upset with the current meal plans, along with the quality of the food that they’re paying for. When the Bon App student survey came out a few weeks ago, there were many students around campus that voiced their opinion regarding our school’s meal services.

Sophomore Akaila Ballard had very strong feelings that needed to be expressed when going through the Bon App survey.
“The Bottom Line has stopped putting tea in the London Fog, the Bistro took the hummus plate off the menu, $7 is much too expensive for a salad plate, and The Byte’s pastries are always stale,” she said. “I expect the absolute best for the price I’m paying and I expect consistency.”

While Seattle U can’t always expect consistency with the menu items or prices, there will always be inflation in the food industry, which means that the prices of the food available to us students will more likely than not increase within our four years of college.

Grace may be reached at gstetson@su-spectator.com

Grace Stetson

Currently in her third year at The Spectator, Grace Stetson is a junior at Seattle University majoring in English and Film Studies and minoring in Spanish. She hopes to use her experience from the paper in the journalism world after college, preferably with a Master's from Medill School of Journalism. Aside from all this writing business, Grace enjoys traveling, chai tea and adorable puppies.


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  • Alex

    7.25 for a bowl of pasta? I live in NYC. I’d kill for a bowl of pasta that cheap. I’d kill for an apple that cheap.

  • Anonymous

    Bon App still uses tea for their london fog. If you look closely or simply ask an employee at any of their location you will learn that they just prepare the tea in larger batches so they don’t have to wait 3+ minutes just for the tea to brew. It speeds up the process of getting you your london fog. It’s the same stuff just a more convenient way for Bon App to do it.

  • Anonymous

    I really appreciate BonApp’s commitment to being environmentally sustainable and paying its employees a livable wage. Remember, it is ultimately cafeteria food and for cafeteria food it’s pretty damn good. Consistency in quality could be better, but, again, it’s cafeteria food.

    @the NewYorker commenting above: I don’t know where you get a bowl of pasta in Seattle for $7.25. Perhaps the complaining student above comes from a small town in Nebrahoma where the cost of living is much lower. 😉