Ban Righ breakfast service under review

The University is contemplating cutting breakfasts in Ban Righ next year to save money.
The University is contemplating cutting breakfasts in Ban Righ next year to save money.
Photo by Vithiya Murugadas

Students living in Waldron Tower may have to walk a bit further for their bacon and eggs next year, as the University is currently contemplating closing Ban Righ cafeteria for breakfast. Leonard cafeteria will continue to serve morning meals, but student and staff response to the plan has still been generally negative.

Alexis Meyerman, Main Campus Residents’ Society (MCRS) president, said the potential closure is a cost-cutting measure.

“The reason why this is being done … is because there is a new program going in Food Services next year, which is [cash] equivalencies, something MCRC has been encouraging,” she said.

Bruce Griffiths, director of residence and hospitality services, said that closing Ban Righ for breakfasts would save $115,000 per year if the facility stayed closed.

He said that for a long time, residence and hospitality services used weekly plans ranging from 10, 12, 15 or 18 meals per week.

“One of the things that has come back over and over again on surveys is students’ perceptions that they are paying for meals that they don’t eat,” Griffiths told the Journal.

“Another big issue for us is meal plan fatigue,” he said, adding that the cash equivalency program was introduced to combat this boredom with cafeteria options that some students have complained about.

“What we will be adding is twice per week, each mandatory meal plan holder will be able to get a cash equivalency at a retail outlet.”

Meyerman said cash equivalency would give students more choice in where they eat, and would include Victoria Hall’s new food facility, which should be ready for the first day of classes in September.

Griffiths added that cash equivalency is currently used for lunch by students on West Campus. The program allows for students to take a traditional meal like those in Ban Righ or Leonard and twice a week have a cash amount they can spend at another location. He added there have been no decisions made about the amount of the equivalencies yet.

For the past two years, the meal plan program has offered a block plan, 320 meals per year, to be used at the holder’s discretion, Griffiths said.

“In terms of providing this, these options aren’t without cost. As you introduce flexibility from the traditional meal plans that you have, you also introduce cost,” Griffiths said.

He said the decision to possibly close Ban Righ was because of what it lacked.

“We picked Ban Righ because Leonard is newer, and also offers some programming menu items that can’t be [replicated] as effectively at Ban Righ,” Griffiths said.

Griffiths later told the Journal that he is reconsidering the proposal to close Ban Righ for breakfast.

“The general student feedback is not positive,” he said. “I am going to call the meal plan review committee again and even though this saves student money … I don’t feel comfortable finalizing that decision.”

Meyerman said that closing Ban Righ would inconvenience residents of Waldron Tower, as well as students living in the women’s residences.

“MCRC has brought up concerns on behalf of residents, particularly of Waldron Tower, who are far away from Leonard [and] who already have to walk about 10 minutes to get to breakfast and would have to walk even further,” she said.

Meyerman added that although students are not widely aware of the possible removal of Ban Righ breakfast, she has heard opinions against it.

“Our general assemblies and all the representatives of students have been made aware of this,” she said. “Particularly, the house presidents of the women’s residences as well as the house president of Waldron Tower have really expressed concerns with this in the sense that for them, it is very bad, because that is where their cafeteria is.”

Meyerman said she feels students will miss the tradition associated with the Ban Righ dining hall.

“People who really enjoy Ban Righ breakfast are really attached to Ban Righ breakfast in a way that people are not attached to Leonard breakfast,” she said.

Griffiths said that closing either cafeteria would prompt a similar reaction.

“I think the problem is that whether we close Ban Righ or Leonard, someone is going to be unhappy,” he said.

Griffiths said he has discussed other options for Waldron Tower residents.

“I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Brown’s Fine Foods, who runs the Garden Street Café in the basement of Botterell Hall,” he said. “We would be able to set up a special breakfast option and increase number of equivalencies at the breakfast level for Waldron Tower people only.”

Griffiths added that the option is still only in a preliminary discussion.

Food Services predicts that fewer students will use their meal plan for breakfast with the cash equivalency program, he said.

“Right now, we know students get up and have breakfast because they are paying for it. Whereas, if you’re sitting on a [block plan], you don’t go to breakfast, you haven’t lost anything,” Griffiths said.

Meyerman said she understands the decision to cut costs, but feels Leonard would still be a better location at which to cut breakfast.

“Financially, it makes sense to cut Ban Righ breakfast because less people use [the] breakfast than use Leonard breakfast,” she said.

“The only thing for us, [while] we understand the financial imperatives, we would have preferred having Leonard closed and Ban Righ open because classes are centred around where Ban Righ is.” Griffiths said that closing Ban Righ was not necessary to ensuring meal plan changes continue.

“We are very committed to meal plan equivalency,” he said. “[The potential closure] is simply a way of buffering.”

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