On Sept. 5, the Human Ecology Building (ECOL)’s cafeteria, E-cafeteria, reopened after an interior renovation and change of management from Shinsegae Food to JJ Catering. Along with changes to the menu, prices have generally risen. The most expensive, the Big Burger Set, costs 6,000 won, while the cheapest 2,900 won item is no longer offered.
The following week on Sept. 10, an anonymous student even put up a hand-written poster on the E-cafeteria doors to issue a complaint.
“Let’s not be so cheap with what we eat,” read the poster in bold. The poster elaborated on the financial difficulties of students, including those studying for national exams, and condemned the school for trying to earn profit through students. “The high prices of school meals do not align with one of the founding principles of Ewha, which expects the school to provide all needs including food and sleep to let students focus on their studies,” added the poster.
For 5,000 won, Ewha students are only able to buy one small dish of bolognaise spaghetti, while students of Yonsei University or Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, schools that are widely known for their quality cafeteria meals, are able to enjoy two full meals of both Korean and Western food for lunch for the same price.
Due to the heavy complaints and after the low satisfaction rate through their monitoring consultation with JJ Catering, the General Affairs Team announced a plan to lower some of the prices to previous amounts: the special corner (steak and chicken) from 5,900 to 4,900 won and the pasta corner from 4,900 to 4,500 won. Nevertheless, Ewha students continue to express dissatisfaction with the prices, and some have even called for a boycott of the cafeteria on online community sites. In addition to the prices, students have also been questioning the quality of the meals.
“When the cafeteria provided pork cutlets for breakfast in the morning, it made me feel sick sometimes to eat such food so early at the start of my day,” added the writer of the poster.
However, JJ Catering in E-cafeteria has raised several points in their defense.
“The previous food catering service, Shinsegae Food, which is a major company, experienced a deficit in profit and stepped down,” said Lee Ja-young from JJ Catering, the new nutritionist of E-cafeteria. “The prices of the food we offer all reflect the interior expense and inflation of goods and wages, so it is hard in reality to set a low price for all menu items.”
Because E-cafeteria has several corners with diverse menu items, it costs more than running a regular restaurant, with extra costs including indirect operating expenses.
“The recent trend of university cafeterias is a form of ungraded food court, so we wanted to offer that to Ewha,” Lee said. “Unfortunately, the construction was delayed, and we opened in a rush, which led to several problems that students felt uncomfortable with.”
When asked about the hand-written poster on the cafeteria doors, Lee responded, “As a person who also went to university and is currently working for a company, I do not think it was appropriate to do this to a company that started off only two days ago.”
Lee mentioned that the new catering service still has many plans such as communicating with students about events and monitoring the nutrients of every menu item and explicitly labeling them for students to see.
“There even was an article by Ewha Weekly that implied our company to be the one that operated the cafeteria in the first semester,” Lee said. “I had hoped that they would reflect our efforts compliment some of our good points so that we would be encouraged even through a rough opening. I wish to try new things that the previous service company did not try here. Also, I will try to provide a better meal for students, so I hope we can communicate and aim for the better good.”