Wilkes forced to raise food service prices due to economy

Amanda Leonard, News Editor

Wilkes’ food services have been hit hard with the depleting economy, just like any other business. Eating establishments on campus, such as Rifkin Café, have seen a price increase on some of its menu options. However, Wilkes claims no responsibility and retail prices have not risen in two years.
Ronald Williams, interim general manager for dining services, has worked with Wilkes and outside retail food services since last June and oversees all food service operations on campus.
“Retail prices did not raise; like everyone in today’s economy, our costs have risen,” he said. “Food costs, fuel surcharges, packaging and insurance rates rose and it had become necessary to raise some of our prices in order to offset some of those costs.”
While higher prices for food is the last thing a college student would want to hear, Williams said that a few prices in Rifkin Café have decreased.
“We did not raise prices in Rifkin across the board. Many of the prices remained the same as last year and some have actually decreased,” he said. “Coffee prices and fountain beverage prices have dropped, several specialty sandwich prices have dropped, the very popular Simply-To-Go peanut butter and jelly sandwich has also seen a decrease.”
Some students have expressed contempt over not only the change in pricing, but to portion sizes as well. Wilkes looks to competitors in order to prepare quality foods for a better value.
The six-inch sub prices have risen from $3.99 to $4.29, a 7 percent increase. Williams said that this is due to a rise in food supplies over the last two years.
However, Wilkes did not downsize any portions.
“The perception that we have downsized our portions may stem from a change in our sub rolls,” he said. “We still purchase from the same bakery, but have tightened our specifications for consistency in size.”
The six-inch roll previously bought from this supplier varied in size and Wilkes sought out a more consistent product.
“The amount of meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato and condiments has never changed,” he said. “We constantly compare ourselves to the competition such as Subway and Quiznos, and are confident that we still offer a better value.”
Justin Kraynack, director of procurement office, also said that Wilkes is not directly involved in the pricing of items in retail food outlets on campus.
“My experience is that any increase in prices at these outlets is related to increased costs of products and labor rates and unfortunately, none of us are immune to the current economic pressures,” he said.
Kraynack said that dining plans for the university have increased 2 percent for the 2011-12 academic year due to economic pressure.
The new menu in UCOMM, which recently replaced Einstein Bros. Bagel, was designed to offer lower prices for sandwiches. Most of the offerings are priced below five dollars.
The former Einstein Bros. Bagel location is in the process of transforming into a new retail concept and is currently being called the UCOMM Café. The menu consists of artisan sandwiches, paninis, quesadillas, salads, as well as an array of hot and cold beverages. Italian sausage and hot chicken sandwiches will soon be added to the menu.
“This menu has been built to offer options different from Rifkin and at a price point that is lower than the former concept,” Williams said.