With its laid back atmosphere, all-vegetarian food and freshly roasted coffee, the student-run Four Winds Café is a popular destination for students, professors and campus visitors. However, due to complaints of a too-small kitchen, long lines and perpetually missing ingredients, the café is attempting to reorganize and upgrade its establishment.
While the opinions of patrons have yet to be made known, as the Four Winds just re-opened its doors on Aug. 29th, the occurring changes come as good news to the more than 20 employees. Thesis student and assistant manager Megan Lyons spoke with the Catalyst via email in order to clarify these changes.
“They knocked down the wall that used to be between the office and the old kitchen, which increased the size of the kitchen by a lot – it’s maybe three times as big now,” Lyons said. “We have a lot more space to prepare food and a lot more space to store supplies.”
While more and quicker food might sound like good news to most patrons, many students still wonder about the payment methods.
“It used to be set up such that you could transfer Ham bucks [a nickname for money on student meal plans] to the Café, but you’d lose half of them in the process,” Lyons said. “Now, students can use their Ham cards at the Café without having to go through the trouble of transferring, and it’s at a 1:1 ratio.”
Essentially, students don’t have to lose 50 percent of their money when they purchase food and beverages at the café. However, there is a catch.
“I don’t really understand the intricacies of this, but as a student body we have a set amount of money that we can spend,” Lyons said.
The set amount of money that the student body can spend at the Four Winds is $66,000 – and that’s for the entire year.
“Once we’ve spent that much, there’s no more Ham money to spend for the 2011-2012 year. But, we accept credit cards now.”
In essence, this means that each student at New College has less than $90 in meal-plan money to spend per year at the Four Winds. If a student spends more than that in a year, there is less money for other students to spend instead.
In addition to considerably different payment methods, at least some of the menu items are also experiencing some minor changes.
“The biggest changes we made were with the smoothies,” Lyons said. “We took off a bunch of the less popular ones, and changed the ingredients in some of the ones we left. Mostly we took out the flavored syrups that are really sugary and added things like spinach and oats. Of course, we still have all the syrups for people with a sweeter tooth.”
Items like the “Peach Melba” and “Peaches and Cream” were generally unpopular with patrons and were removed altogether. The food menu, however, has remained roughly the same.
“We made really small changes to the food menu, mostly removing things that don’t sell as well but are very labor intensive,” Lyons explained. “By narrowing the scope of that menu slightly, we have a lot more time to work on specials.”
On top of this, the Café is now offering a “grab-n-go” menu that offers many of the café’s most popular food items. Instead of waiting to have a meal freshly prepared, students can take a pre-made boxed meal from the fridge and pay for it immediately, saving time between classes.
For students who wake up on Sundays craving brunch food, the Four Winds will be opening on Sundays from 10a.m. to 2p.m. Among other menu ideas, the café plans on making Belgian waffles a mainstay on the weekends.
“While they [work crew] were renovating the kitchen, we discovered a brand new Belgian waffle maker that nobody knew about,” Lyons said. “I think we are just really stoked about getting to make a lot of waffles.”
As the school year moves forward, the effects of these changes will become more apparent. While the general attitude among patrons and employees seems generally positive, both parties are cautious about the limited meal-plan money and what that will mean for customers who otherwise wouldn’t spend money out-of-pocket. Theoretically, every student should be able to eat at the Four Winds about three or four times a week without going over the individual limit. How well this payment plan works out is entirely up to the student body.