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Aramark Doomed to Repeat History

Congratulations, Aramark -- you’ve done it again. You’ve succeeded in ruining the last decent food service location on campus.

When I entered the Bio Cafe today, I noticed a strange sight. Gone was the menu of sandwiches, baked goods, and pasta specials. Gone also was the friendly cashier & sandwich maker who was always courteous and never failed to make your sandwich exactly the way you ordered (two rare qualities in Aramark workers). Instead, the wall surrounding the counter had been painted a sickly yellow, and new menus were listed on the wall, oriented in such a way that I had to rotate my head 40 degrees simply to figure out what they were calling a roast beef sub these days.

I bring this up not because of the menu changes -- I have long since discovered that protesting against those is futile. Rather, I question the motivation behind these changes. Does Aramark really think that these renovations and redesigned menus will increase revenue?

Let us look at the example of the Pritchett Snack Bar. When I first arrived at MIT, Pritchett was the place to go for burgers, fries, chicken fingers, and all the other good foods that students enjoy. It was managed by students, staffed by students, and the clients (also students) were generally happy. It was not long, however, before Aramark took it over. Instead of keeping the foods that students enjoyed, they installed a new menu (presumably at great expense) with all kinds of selections that would be perfect for an over-priced Cyber Cafe, but not for a snack bar where students do not want to spend more than three or four dollars for a meal. So what happened? Paper menus were printed up containing -- drum roll, please -- burgers, fries and chicken fingers. The end result -- huge amounts of money were spent for no reason whatsoever.

The same is true at Walker. The menu designs (though not the items on the menus) have changed at least four times in as many years, and to what end? Are more students frequenting Walker for lunches? Not as far as I can tell.

Since the administration has seen fit to support the Aramark monopoly on campus, it is their responsibility to make sure that the food provided is what the students want. Do we really care if the different stations at Walker have fancy Italian names? Is the Bio Cafe that much better now that the menus are unreadable and the color of the wall hurts your eyes? Are people coming into Pritchett begging to order a mozzarella sandwich on designer focaccia bread?

So long, Aramark -- I’m going to LaVerde’s.

Jonathan D. Reed ‘02