Correction appended January 15, 2014
Last Monday, after three years of lobbying from student groups, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) opened up a new student-run cafe (SRC) called The Nest. Tucked into the second floor cafeteria in the Shatner building, replacing the vacated Lola Rosa Xpress.
The new café, which features gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan menu choices, is student-run, with former SSMU President Josh Redel at the helm as manager.
In an interview with The Daily, Kathleen Bradley, head chef, noted that, “The general reaction to the café this first week has been overwhelmingly positive. [Students] love the prices, the size has been good, it’s a great bang for their buck, and [the menu] rotates daily but there’s something you can come to expect everyday like the burritos.”
Despite the successful first impressions, there have been hurdles with implementing the new SRC. According to Redel, the biggest challenge has been trying to “piece all the vendors together, get them talking, get stuff ordered, get the right prices and [… find] the right suppliers who can deliver on time.”
Redel added that he expected “getting the recipes down pat, and [hiring and training] the staff” to be the biggest challenge but that it was not.
“The initiative is a learning experience for all of us. I want to know where people think we can improve and do better since part of our mandate is a comprehensive customer feedback mechanism,” Bradley said. “We’re continuing to work on customer and student engagement.”
For Bradley, the most meaningful feedback has been from students who appreciate the ability of the SRC to accommodate dietary restrictions. “Being able to provide something vegan everyday, lots of vegetarian food, lots of gluten-free food, is really important and people have really responded to that.”
Students who talked to The Daily generally had positive things to say about the new café, although not all of them knew about it. A U2 Management student said, “I’ll definitely check it out [but] they should publicize it more in emails and posters throughout campus.”
A U1 Faculty of Engineering student standing in line to purchase a vegetarian burrito at The Nest mentioned, “I’m so happy there are vegetarian options for a low price. I’m always broke or low on money so finding a good burrito for cheap, and at such a convenient location, is awesome.”
Currently, the student-run café is limited to breakfast and lunch. Prices are set around $7 to $8 for a sandwich and soup combo, and $5 for a burrito, along with $1.40 for a coffee. Prices are adjusted for students who bring reusable plates or mugs.
“For me, [as] the manager, the most exciting thing is that we haven’t hit any big hiccups in the first week. This means we can start next week on the engagement pieces, the events we’re planning,” Redel said. “We’ve already had student groups talk to us about getting involved, so that’s the best part about this start-up: it’s been pretty seamless.”
In an earlier version of this article, The Daily quoted Josh Redel as saying that it has been challenging dealing with recipes and staff. In fact, Redel said that he expected it to be a challenge but that it was not. The Daily regrets the error.