Last Thursday, SSMU VP Finance & Operations Jean Paul Briggs met with the Shatner Building’s second-floor tenants Lola Rosa Xpress, Bocadillo, and Bamboo Bowl to discuss their concerns.
In his report to Council, Briggs wrote, “The tenants are upset and losing money. Some of them expressed concerns that they wouldn’t return after the duration of the contract at this rate. They expressed disappointment with the state of the equipment, the constant breakdowns, and slow response from McGill to fix anything.”
Earlier this year, the three restaurants replaced Cultures, Tiki Ming, and Franx Supreme for the 2012 academic year under a one-year contract. The renewal of the contracts are still to be determined.
Bocadillo owner Victor Gonzalez pointed to the restaurants’ limited promotional opportunities around the Shatner Building as a central concern.
“Our concerns are we feel that we are not free to promote ourselves. [The tenants] feel that for the type of restaurants that we are… our costs of operations are very high. We need to spread out our time of operation more but since we can’t do that, we need to focus on how we can make ourselves known,” said Gonzalez.
“How is it that even after two months of being here, there are still some [advertisements] for Tiki Ming or Cultures? There are no signs that say that there is a restaurant space on the second floor of SSMU,” he added.
The restaurants’ hours of operation are limited to 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. They are not open on weekends.
In an interview with The Daily, SSMU President Josh Redel responded, “[Miscommunication on promotional space] is probably an oversight on SSMU’s behalf…being so used to the University’s environment. For example, we have 21 services and…it’s part of the services to advertise for themselves. So I guess we assumed that this would be considered in their method of operation.”
Redel also explained that each tenant is given three windows, with two-thirds of the surface area available for advertisements.
“We actually talked about this in our executive meetings about lending support for them…in terms of advertising – putting stuff on the listserv, social media, talking to our Communications and Publications Manager so that she can meet with them and talk about doing posters in the building. Outside of the building, we really don’t have much control,” said Redel.
According to Gonzalez, the tenants also feel that their concerns about the equipment have not been adequately addressed.
SSMU regulations prohibit tenants from outsourcing equipment problems to external services for repair.
Redel explained that because a lot of tenants did not know beforehand what the environment was going to be like, there were some surprises regarding the capital investments and the space.
“For them, this is shocking because normally they can fix [the problems] themselves, or they can call in a plumber who will be there the same day […],” said Redel. “Another problem was…we said [that they would not] not have to put any capital investments into the place. And theoretically, the space would be good to go when [they] started. It turned out not necessarily to be like this for the [tenants] – some of the equipment didn’t end up working…and there were some hidden costs that they were not expecting.”
Briggs told The Daily that a listserv would be sent to students to provide feedback to the tenants.
“It’s going to be coming either this week or next week,” said Briggs. “It’s just going to be a survey form for each of the tenants to provide feedback. There’s also going to be one for Gerts and Gertrude’s as well…. So the tenants will know how to better target students’ demands.”