The Hungry Griffin Changes Overhaul
The Hungry Griffin and the AUBG café welcomed the Spring 2017 semester with
innovations and higher prices. Students are now enjoying a wider variety of meals and more information about the daily menus. Nevertheless, some concerns and complaints still exist, showing that the problem is not yet resolved.
Informative posts at the AUBG App and emails from Dining Services about the daily menus, redistribution of the food sectors, chalkboards with meals and prices, pizza service, fitness menu, and background music are only a few of the innovations that the Hungry Griffin and the cafeteria have implemented. However, this time it is the students who pioneered these changes. Marina Rumen Penkova, a third-year student at AUBG and member
of the Hub and Radio AURA, was one of the initiators. She cooperated with President Stratsimir Kulinski and third-year student from Macedonia, Borkica Ivanova, who is in charge of a catering business in her home country.
“It was the president who came to me and a few friends of mine questioning our opinions about the canteen and the quality of the food and the services there. We honestly told him that there’s a lot we can improve and I randomly gave him the idea that it is the many students, who go to the Work and Travel program and are experienced in dining services, that could help with ideas. He actually liked this idea very much and sent Borkica and me to the HR (Human Resources) office where we met several alumni students willing to help us,” shared Penkova.
The ideas of the two girls
mainly focused on the customer service in the canteen and the choices of food available.
“We wanted the serving ladies to welcome the students with smiles and to be always willing to help,” said Penkova. “We also insisted on making the Hungry Griffin’s menu and some of the products in the café more visible,” she then added.
Even though the two girls are satisfied with the improvements made and President Kulinski’s willingness to work with them, a lot of students think that there is a lot more that could be done.
“Compared to other public restaurants, The Hungry Griffin is less expensive. Yet the quality of the meals is often quite low for the current prices,” disclosed Tanya Chaparova, a second-year student at AUBG.
„I like the blackboard and the new decorations. The service is nice, the staff is always smiling and positive. But I don’t think that the price we pay is adequate,” commented
first-year student Jorgo Qirjaj.
The roots of the problem lay in the poor communication between the Dining Services and the students. None of the complaints have reached the Dining Services office and its manager, Mrs. Olga Draganova, thus leaving the latter in the dark in regard of students’ opinions. Draganova contributes the issue to students’ inactivity on the Dining Services’ Facebook page in terms of comments or any remarks concerning food and service. Her only guideline is the number of servings students buy from a particular meal.
“I always want to be contacted if there are any remarks, Draganova stated. “I believe it is a negative campaign to post only criticism on apps or any other pages, because you don’t look for an explanation there. That’s why students should come to me, we will apologize, give you a refund immediately and we will try to compensate you,” she continued.
She noted that the staff makes the effort to fulfill the students’ wishes. As part of that, they undergo a training in how to greet and to smile. They continuously introduce new dishes, try to keep more bars busy such as the side dishes bar and the pizza options, create set menus, and strive to be as immaculate as possible from a hygienic standpoint.
“But we have to always take the price movements in the market into consideration, because on the one hand we have to respond to the needs of the students, on the other hand- to the needs of the institution. We must have good prime cost, fairly good self-support of the office and constantly monitor both things – whether students are satisfied and whether we stay in the budget,” Draganova shared.
During the process of implementation of the changes, Draganova didn’t meet with the two student initiators. She noted that she only received an email from the president outlining the main focus of the changes but she didn’t have specific information about the students’ comments. The reason behind it was president Kulinski who had taken the role of a mediator between Dining Services and AUBG students.
“We made a list with the general direction of the changes, the basic idea, and as we are directly related to food – the meals have to be good, there should be a variety of cuisines and cooking techniques and the canteen should be nice and clean.” explained Draganova.
Regarding the issue with the increased prices Draganova stated that raising prices is not a way to increase their profits, but rather “solely in response to the rise in prices on the market”. She explained that since September 2016 there have been two or three increases of the prices for dairy products, coffee, and meat. In addition, the rise of the minimum wage has also affected the prices in the Hungry Griffin. Having that in mind, she doesn’t believe that a decrease in prices is possible.
“When we raised prices, we did a research in the whole city to compare our self-service restaurant with other similar ones. Our soups are cheap. But students see the prices of only the most expensive meals – like lasagna, trout – and complain,” Draganova pointed out.
Draganova also stated that the cost of the meal plan will not increase more. As for its current fee of $300, she does not see it as problematic,
since students can distribute the money throughout all AUBG dining venues – the canteen, the café, and the Skaptopara 1 store.
“At the South-West University, the state subsidizes the food. You cannot eat at the same price, because AUBG is a private institution and is not subsidized by the state,” commented Draganova on the question of the difference in the food price between AUBG and South-West University “Neofit Rilski.
All the aforementioned arguments come as an example that the process of changing the Hungry Griffin and the AUBG café hasn’t finished yet. Nonetheless Dining Services office is open for new ideas. Concerning the matter, Draganova appealed to AUBG students to come and express their suggestions for the sake of mutual benefit.
Another idea that came up during the conversation with Draganova was the possibility to establish the feedback between students and Dining Services at a Student Government meeting.
Some students have already suggested some improvements.
“I suggest that dining services should cooperate with international students and take easily the recipes for the dishes.” said Penkova, regarding the upcoming Taste Fest of the International Week.
Although the Hungry Griffin still struggles to meet the desires of the students, the results of the initiation, created by AUBG-ers, are evident. Following this thought, the Dining Services openly expressed their desire for further improvement and cooperation. What does the future hold for the AUBG canteen?
In regards to the aforementioned changes, the Student Government is researching the possibility to change the meal plan into $150 for all current and prospective AUBG students. To initiate such a campaign, the SG are first organizing consultations with students, which will be held on Feb. 16, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Aspire Hub, to learn more about the students’ opinions and gather suggestions.
This article was a joint effort of AUBG Daily’s Owls Milka Stoycheva and Nikoleta Mancheva.