Student-Run Café opens for business

Project managers seek student feedback on The Nest, cite dedication to sustainability as main goal

by Catherine-Laure Juste

Jan 14, 2014

More options suggested as potential improvement. (Cassandra Rogers / McGill Tribune)
More options suggested as potential improvement. (Cassandra Rogers / McGill Tribune)

The long-awaited Student-Run Café (SRC) opened for business on Jan. 6, two months after the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) announced plans for the venture in October.

Named The Nest, the café is located in the second-floor cafeteria of the SSMU Building, and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday.

According to SRC Manager Josh Redel, opening the café on the first day of the new semester was challenging.

“We really wanted to open on Monday—the beginning of the semester—to have a semester full of work; but that meant fitting a million different puzzle pieces together in the right order, so we could open on time,” Redel said. “When you’re actually on the ground, a lot of it is in building relationships with vendors, be it suppliers of food, coffee, tea or equipment […] and working with different deadlines.”

Head Chef Kathleen Bradley said student feedback in the opening week has been mainly positive, though the SRC will remain open to feedback in the next few weeks.

“People like how it tastes, they like the price,” Bradley said. “Another thing that has been really good is the speed. It takes four minutes to get your order.”

In the coming weeks, the SRC will continue to collect feedback from students. Customers will be able to send feedback to the SRC through text messages, online, or in person. For example, one of the required tasks of the cashier is to ask for feedback from students. Formal meetings will also be organized later in the semester.

“[Things to consider include] how do you see the space change in the future?” Bradley said. “What really is student-run? The size and scope will change based on the type of feedback we and students think they need to give.”

Redel said the SRC has been successful in achieving a main goal so far—the promotion of sustainability.

“Financial sustainability, social justice, social sustainability in anything—how you hire, how you purchase and environmental sustainability—has been one of the focus points and everything we’ve done has been put through that checklist,” Redel said. “Everything you’ve been served is compostable—containers, lids, spoon, everything.”

Sustainability is also a key theme in implementation of the SRC’s daily activities, according to Bradley.

“I also wanted to […] eliminate as much food waste as possible while still giving a nice variety,” Bradley said. “So, that’s why we have our menu designed with burritos everyday and the soup and the sandwich rotate. That lets us control waste and labour costs in the back of house a little bit better so we can still really streamline operations in the front while still giving people a different option everyday.”

Redel said future goals for the SRC include potentially extending opening hours and expanding their menu options.

“For example, a lot of people have been asking about sweets and desserts either at breakfast or after their meal,” Redel said. “So, we’re probably going to be working with Organic Campus to sell their stuff to the café, to offer products that are already on campus.”

Taylor Lowery, U3 Education, was a customer at the Nest this week. She said she found the prices to be affordable, and suggested expansion of options as a potential future improvement.

“The prices—I kept on hearing about the cheapness of it—it’s true,” Lowery said. “I guess when they get a little more established […] more options would be good.”

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