by Jasmine Papillon-Smith
Despite student claims that Dawson’s cafeterias sell food at higher prices than the surrounding competition, Chartwells, the company backing the cafeterias, is only making a 0.5 to 1.5 per cent profit margin on its sales at the College.
“Are they really struggling?” asked Drago Kresevic, Director of Plant & Facilities. “They would like to do better, but it’s not an easy time.” Chartwells owns all of the food sold within Dawson College, including the third floor cafeteria, the atrium cafeteria, as well as all of the vending machines.
“We are the largest CEGEP in Quebec. We have a large population and activity. Companies come here and see the environment. The outside person thinks it’s so easy and phenomenal. But it is very challenging,” commented Kresevic. A population of 7,000 students can seem encouraging. In reality, the third-floor cafeteria, which would sell 500-700 meals per day in another school of Dawson’s size, only sells about 35.
“It’s not necessarily the amount of transactions, but the value of the transactions that has gone down,” Kresevic said. Where a student would previously have bought a coffee and a muffin, that same student will now only buy a coffee.
Dawson encourages Chartwells to provide the most nutritional foods possible.
“They still sell junk, but not at the best prices,” said Kresevic. What with the raw ingredients for the cafeteria’s nutritional food being so expensive, a balance must be struck where the nutritional food is not unaffordable. Therefore, the price of the junk food is brought up in order to give all the food a chance to sell. “What’s expensive is the junk food sold at the cafeteria,” said Charles-Antoine St-Germain, Kitchen Manager.
“I personally have never eaten at the Dawson cafeteria,” said Marek Morawski, a sixth semester Law & Society student. “I don’t know why, though, since the food is actually good. I’ve had a taste from friends’ stuff but I usually go to Alexis Nihon or Westmount Square. Westmount Square when I feel like Subway, because for the 12 inch sub you get the free trio. I also go for the food court, because changing once in a while is good.”
“At Dawson College, because of the food court in Alexis Nihon, there is competition for everybody,” said Kresevic. Dawson has an exclusivity contract with Chartwells– that is, Chartwells is the only company authorized for food distribution within the school, and all catering jobs must first be offered to them. “We have to give them the right of approval or refusal, but Charwells gets first choice,” Kresevic said. The exclusivity is somewhat false, however. Students can leave the College to get food, and events can be catered to by other companies.
“The College’s directives are that they have to treat with Chartwells,” said St-Germain. Kresevic insists that a distinction must be made.
“Dawson College is not trying to make sure they make a profit. They’re just making sure that [Chartwells] has a fair chance of survival. Their profit range has been so minimal. Even with exclusivity, it does not mean we are bound by the prices they make up,” he said.
Considering the low profit margin, “It’s surprising how well they serve the Dawson Community,” said Kresvic. For instance, he refers to how late the cafeteria stays open. “They must operate late in the evenings. We don’t want to inconvenience the night students.”
For now, there is no cap on the amount of bake sales that students can have in a semester.
“If it becomes problematic, we will see how we can work something out.” Kresevic says the school must be supportive of Chartwells’ efforts for equal balance and minimal waste. The cafeterias are advised when a bake sale will take place, so that they can make less, in order for there to be no waste or competition.
“Students always want lower prices,” finished Kresevic. “It’s a constantly changing job. New tastes, new visions and needs.”