Associate Vice President for Community Affairs and Auxiliary Services Joanne Borfitz emailed a letter to the editor to he Maroon-News following criticism of the Chobani Cafe on October 21. The letter was addressed to the Colgate community and was co-signed by Borfitz and Chartwells Director of Operations Pat Raynard. Bortfiz and Raynard in their letter assured that the Chobani Café has been well received by many, however they are moving forward with suggestions from the Student Advisory Dining Committee.
The email read, “The University’s newest dining option, Chobani at the Hieber Café, has been well received by many of its visitors, but the student dining advisory committee and others have sent us several suggestions regarding the location’s meal plan options, pricing, and selection. We want you to know that Chartwells is listening, and we have a number of new changes to share.”
Borfitz and Raynard named a number of changes, including a 50 cent discount for using reusable mugs, a sticker for premier meal plan holders for unlimited coffee and tea, pre-made sandwiches, a second seasonal soup and two new baked goods.
Junior Paige Rossi serves as the Committee Chair of the Student Dining Advisory Committee and shared that the four dining options on campus, Frank Dining Hall, Chobani Café, the O’Connor Campus Center and Donovan’s Pub, are discussed at every meeting. The meetings are structured as open forums where members can suggest changes, report campus reactions and reflect on aspects of the dining options that are operating well. The group is comprised of student-volunteers from all corners of the Colgate campus, as well as faculty and staff such as the campus executive chef Chef Damian Price, campus nutritionist Emily Holdorf, Dining Marketing Manager Rachel Morris, and Cody Tipton and Joanne Borfitz, who are both liaisons between Chartwells and Colgate.
According to Rossi, the committee suggested more menu options, unlimited coffee, gluten and dairy free options, available nutrition facts and adding a microwave for the Chobani Cafe. She explained that the ordering kiosks in Frank, the pre-made sandwiches in Coop, the changing of salad and yogurt bar positions and rope placement in Coop and the rotation of popular dishes are all instances in which Chartwells implemented feedback from the dining committee.
Borfitz explained that Chartwells is working with Chobani to provide a vegan, dairy-free yogurt option. In addition, they are working to reduce paper and plastic usage in the café and continue to evaluate café pricing and introducing other offerings.
“Chobani and Chartwells are in frequent communication about the café and are open to feedback as is evidenced by the changes made after fall break. All parties are very proud of the cafe and want it to be a place the entire Colgate community enjoys,” Borfitz said. “[Chobani employees] have been terrific partners.”
President Brian Casey explained that Chobani contacted Vice President for Finance and Administration Joseph Hope about opening a café at Colgate. He supported the project due to Hieber’s outdated furniture and kitchen—the renovations would address these two components of the café.
However, Casey too wants to see changes to the Chobani Café including more variety in the café’s food options, lower-cost items on the menu and a more robust coffee selection. Although President Casey acknowledges that there are still improvements that need to be made to the Chobani Café, he appreciates the alternative, refreshing culinary options that it provides. Previously, the Hieber Café would serve the same pre-made food as the COOP’s dining center—the new café provides another outlet for students to dine at.
“My sense is Chobani wants to do this: [if they want to] move into colleges, they have to get it right. My sense is they will,” Casey said. “My sense is chobani is trying to figure out what a college crowd wants…Let’s find a vehicle to have student voices come to this table about how to keep iterating chobani. It reminds me very much of the change in the inn management it takes about six to seven months to finally get the market right.”
Chobani Senior Vice President (SVP) of Specialty Channels Lisa Fisher shared her gratitude to Colgate for the warm welcome since the opening in September.
“Our founding mission is to provide better food to more people, and we’re grateful for and proud of the opportunity to do that at Colgate. It’s our goal to provide natural, healthy food options that are accessible, and today we’re missing that mark at the Café,” Fisher said. “While we don’t set the café prices, we are going to work fast and hard to help solve it. We believe that nutritious and delicious food should be a right for all, not a privilege for some, which is why we are working with Colgate’s dining services to quickly evolve and make some needed changes to our menu, ensuring all can enjoy a visit to the café.”
Grace Schreiber, a member of the Student Dining Advisory Committee, shared that the biggest struggle the committee has faced as student advisors is the cafes leadership being able to take feedback from the student body and execute those propositions.
“We are a pilot program for Chobani on college campuses, so continuing to improve the space and the menu is a matter of understanding the needs of a college student. I praise the cafe’s leadership team for responding meaningfully to our suggestions evident by the recent alterations to coffee swipes, additions to the menu, and new soft seating,” Schreiber said.
Rossi shared that Chartwells, outside of the café, has been responsive to changes proposed in the past and is confident they will see through these suggestions as well.
“Chartwells has been great at communicating student’s suggestions from the dining committee meetings thus far. I think that as students continue to give feedback, both Chartwells and Chobani will develop the best solutions possible to accommodate the wants and needs of the student body,” Rossi said.
Although neither Rossi or Borfitz gave a specific timeline, they mentioned upcoming, more immediate changes for the café, such as new entrees and sides.
Rossi encouraged students, faculty and staff to continue to reach out to the dining committee. If anyone has suggestions, they can direct message @colgatedining on Instagram or text 315-825-4119.