Aramark should lower prices or perish
I'm sure Aramark loves the idea that they own all the restaurants on campus. And somewhere in their back room is a fancy chart that has a graph that points out that they can charge more due to their monopoly. But recent research suggests that this American company doesn't understand the Canadian mentality too well. That is, Aramark's strategy fails to recognize the reaction of Canadians to high food prices. I implore Aramark to take the following into account.

Consider the fact that eight out of ten Canadians are now eating at home because the cost of eating out is too high, according to a recent Ipsos-Reid poll. Eighty percent is a huge number when we consider what Aramark is banking on – that students are stuck on this island and are willing to shell out a lot more for the convenience of readily available food. It's a strategy that works with ballparks, airports and more recently, Olympic venues. But as students who visit the campus daily, we're not the one-time customers those other venues depend on. We're the opposite; if Aramark played their cards right, we could even become devoted clients.

However, as it stands now, Aramark lacks customer satisfaction or loyalty. For two years, I've sat outside of the cafeteria collecting opinions from students on lunch hour every Tuesday for our Voicebox (see page two of the Courier). Although we've asked for “any opinion on anything,” the most common opinion was that Aramark's prices were too high and they should lower prices. True, this is not completely scientific and may be passed off as simply anecdotal, yet it's a powerful anecdote when you realize that we had to implement a “no complaints about cafeteria food” rule due to the sheer amount of repeat commentary on this one issue. No one has given us a positive review on Aramark, ever.

Aramark's high prices are a huge reason for student dissatisfaction and has lead to students looking elsewhere. If you're still feeling incredulous about these results, then let's get scientific: Nine out of ten Canadians agree that they “sometimes don’t buy certain food because it costs too much,” according to the latest survey by Ipsos Reid. Is Aramark really stubborn enough to believe that they can fight the determination of almost 90% of Canadians due to a monopoly? Again, 80% would rather just cook at home as an alternative and 76% take the extra step of looking for deals on food (i.e: sales, coupons, flyers, etc.). You don't have a monopoly on the willpower of Canadians, Aramark.

The Courier once attempted to rectify this situation by providing a big purple fridge for students, etymologically named “Big Purple.” The fridge contained drinks for students at the cost of a donation. It was so successful that it caught the attention of another company who has a food contract with us: Coca Cola. And here lies the problem with all these food contracts: You're bound to upset one of these companies for even the smallest dent in their profit crusade. As Coke did not allow alternative drinks on campus, we were forced to shut our fridge down. However, our point was left standing: It's possible to provide well priced, desirable options for students.

To compensate, the Courier works as a collective to buy food from off-site vendors. Our policy is to boycott Aramark unless starvation makes it impossible, and we help each other collectively to forage for food by considering our team interests and needs, just like a big family. In fact, that is the only way we can handle corporate monopolies from a grass-roots level. We, as community members, must help each other to support desirable food options and share from the symbolic community crock-pot in the corner of the CSU lounge, or from the real one in the corner of the Courier's office. If we continue to think individually about our tummy rumblings then we will always be picked off by the appetite-snipers of Aramark, one by one. A collective boycott of Aramark is only as good as its alternative, and the way I see it, that alternative must consist of an extra sandwich or two for your study buddies. By changing how we think of eating, as a community need rather than an individual desire, we can begin to develop an autonomy of appetites and free ourselves from our corporate meat masters. Excelsior!

// Alamir Novin

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