Junior chemistry major Gary Arevalo noticed last week that he received less change from the $2 he paid for a slice of cheese pizza at the ASUCD Coffee House.
“A slice of cheese pizza is usually $1.75 but it’s gone up since school ended,” said Arevalo.
The increase is part of an overall 3.5 percent price increase in Coffee House food since Summer Session I began June 23.
“The food cost has increased across the board, and our price increases are in response to that,” said Darin Schleup, Coffee House kitchen manager. “When food costs go up we need to as well, we try to cover the prices so much as possible.”
Gas prices are on the rise and the price of staple foods like rice and flour are skyrocketing all over the world. The cost of flour has increased by 58 percent and rice has nearly tripled, and, in some Costco stores, there is a limit to the amount of rice customers may purchase, said Sharon Coulson, Coffee House director.
“We are not immune; there is nothing special about our buying process,” she said. “We are no different from any grocery store and restaurant, so it’s not a huge surprise we would have to raise our prices.”
The Coffee House is a break-even business – meaning it turns no profit. Every year, the Coffee House must adhere to a roughly $1.5 million budget. In January, Coffee House menu prices went up due to the employee wage increase that went into effect across California. The increase turned out to help cover the food cost increase during the school year.
However, as food products such as cheese, milk and flour that are staple ingredients of many of the Coffee House’s menu items kept increasing in price, it was only a matter of time before a price hike would be necessary.
“We being a restaurant that people come to every day, I didn’t want to raise prices in the middle of the quarter,” Coulson said. “I preferred to hang in there the last six months. We rode the wave until after the school year. Summer is a difficult time.”
To save money, Coulson tried to minimize labor costs and increase efficiency as much as possible. When business was slow and the floor was fully staffed, Coulson would ask if any student employees needed to clock out early.
“Employees can … clock out and go home and study and we were able to realize [those] labor savings,” she said.
In addition to increases in food costs, gas price increases were also a contributing factor to the Coffee House’s menu price hike. While the Coffee House has been lucky to locally buy some items such as rice, other necessities such as sliced bread and tofu are shipped from Vacaville and Sacramento, respectively.
“Once we [start to] get our tomatoes from student farms on campus, we hopefully won’t be accruing a lot of costs with fuel,” Schleup said.
The Coffee House staff strives to retain its quality while still being price-friendly to students. They understand the restaurant is a popular choice for students and the effect price increase has on its customers, Coulson said.
“We know times are tough but we try to minimize the pain as much as possible. We don’t take this lightly and it’s not something I enjoy doing, but right now it’s the economy,” Coulson said.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen for the economy. It’s the highest price fluctuation I have seen in my career,” said Coulson, who has worked with the Coffee House for 25 years.
The price of some foods like pizza went up as much as a quarter, but other items such as fruit stayed the same. Coulson said she made sure prices are rounded to the nickel and that tax is included in the prices for student convenience.
Some students have yet to notice the price change, said Elyse Greenblatt, a graduated senior and Coffee House supervisor. “I haven’t gotten any complaints to me personally. In the past people have been upset. Even if the price has gone up, we are still relatively cheap for coffee and other items.”
Some Coffee House patrons like Arevalo are not deterred by the price increase and understand that it is impacted by the economy.
“The food in local supermarkets have gone way up. Things are just not what they used to be,” Arevalo said. “I’ll still go to the Coho. You can’t beat the convenience. It’s cheap compared to everything else in Davis, and it’s good, inexpensive food.”
Even with the Coffee House price increase, the staff keeps a positive outlook that customers will remain loyal and continue to enjoy its fresh, homemade food.
“We still offer really low prices and we are making our food from scratch,” Schleup said. “About 90 to 95 percent of our food is made from scratch – you can pronounce every ingredient in our food.”
WENDY WANG can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.