Wildcat Cafe hikes costs

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wildcatcafe.jpg:Wildcat Cafe employee Wendy Barker takes a student's order during dinner on Aug. 29. The cafe is open not only to Baker students, but also to the Baldwin City community. :

Students returning to Baker University for the fall may find that things at the Wildcat Café are a different this year - at least in terms of prices, which have increased.

Director of Food Service Darrell Bowersox said the change in prices was long overdue.

"It was something we should have been doing incrementally," he said. "But we hadn't done an overall price adjustment since the café opened in 2001."

Bowersox said food services had considered doing the price adjustment in the spring semester of 2006, but decided to wait until over the summer.

"Last spring I asked David (Donohue, food service manager) to do a cost analysis," he said. "And we discovered some surprising things."

Donohue said he found the Wildcat Café was often losing money, citing the old price of a slice of pizza - one dollar - as being half of what it should be to cover costs, as an example of the need for price adjustment.

Although the price of food at the Wildcat Café has gone up, Donohue said he believes the quality and the quantity of food received per dollar spent is still better than at other Baldwin-area restaurants. Part of the price re-evaluation involved price comparisons with those establishments.

Bowersox said one of the things driving up the prices was the rising cost of petroleum from a fuel surcharge on purchases made by Baker Food Service from such suppliers as SYSCO Food Services to the cost of plastic containers for wraps.

John Douglas, marketing associate for SYSCO Food Services of Kansas City, said the fuel surcharge comes from suppliers.

"It's costing more for them to get their product to us," he said.

For the fiscal year 2006, SYSCO's Kansas City warehouse incurred around $800,000 in fuel costs, Douglas said.

"Aside from raising prices, our customers can also limit the number of drops made to them per week to increase efficiency," he said.

Bowersox said because of its limited holding capacity, Baker Food Services can only take so much product at a time, resulting in about three drops per week.

Despite raising costs, food service workers still presented the Wildcat Café as a good choice for students. Douglas touted the quality of café food over that of other local establishments, saying unlike some places, the Wildcat Café gets all of its ground beef from the Midwest.

Senior Joe Ahmadian said he was not pleased by the increases.

"I think it's a bit unfair because college students spend too much cash on food," he said. It also hurts people who have a flex plan, because they only have a certain amount on their card and it will run out faster."

Ahmadian said he will continue to eat at the Wildcat Café, although not as often as in previous semesters.

Donohue said Food Service had anticipated some amount of negative reaction to the price increases.

Bowersox also emphasized the fact that Food Service is run by Baker University and any profits it makes go back to the University.

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