Tortilla Fresca: Aramark’s response

Aramark has released an official response to the Tortilla Fresca meal plan loss that has students voicing their questions and opinions in more ways than one.

Last week many students arrived at South Paw to eat at Tortilla Fresca, a campus restaurant that had always been on the meal plan menu, but discovered only Bearkat bucks, cash, and credit were being accepted.

Following the first day surprise, one student went as far as creating a facebook group, which boycotted South Paw until Tortilla Fresca was put back on the menu. The group has over 572 members thus far.

“I started this facebook group simply because I was outraged at the suddenness and lack of clear notice of this significant change. Even the employees of Southpaw seemed unprepared,” Corbin Smith, creator of the facebook group, said. “This group helped keep people motivated on combating this injustice. It helped to unify the student body and showed individual students that they weren’t the only ones outraged.”

In an interview with The Houstonian and on the SH dining website, this statement was released by the Director of Aramark, Santel Frazier:

“SH Campus Dining in conjunction with the university made the decision to no longer have Tortilla Fresca a meal equivalent option in Dec 08/Jan 09 and approved by the Board in February 2009. The decision was made to return to the classic meal plan setting in preparation for the conversion of the existing Caf Belvin into the new 28,000 sq ft. Fresh Food Company opening Spring 2011. In preparation for the change, SH Campus Dining made enhancements to our menu at Caf Belvin, the All-You-Care-To-Eat restaurant to expand our menu offerings and to serve some items similar to the Tortilla Fresca menu selection. This was in effort to provide students the selections they enjoyed at Tortilla Fresca, while they can still purchase that at South Paw, they would also have it available in our All-You-Care-To-Eat restaurant. No other solutions were needed or proposed as bonus funds exist on each meal plan (Bearkat Bucks) and can be used at Tortilla Fresca.”

Last week the Student Government Association reacted to what they said was a “violation of transparency against students” by arranging a meeting with Frazier along with two other Aramark representatives. Prior to the meeting Santel Frazier said he hoped to accomplish “A more enhanced level of communication between Dining Services and the students’ representatives to handle this and any other concerns that are presented to them as it pertains to Dining Services in the future.”

On Friday afternoon at 4 p.m., the two organizations met for about an hour discussing the situation at hand.

“It went very well, we found out that the meal plan was switched through the board of regents and it will have to be switched back through them. The voting for that will be coming up in February. but we will remind them in November,” SGA President, Ryan Bridges said.

Among other goals, SGA said they were trying originally to see if they could get the meal plan back.

“We were trying to see what steps we needed to take and also trying to figure out from their perspective and why it was taking off the meal plan in the first place and the process it took to go through that. We were all trying to get on the same page, but also we were seeing which ways we could fix the issue,” Bridges said.

There are several options on the table that SGA is exploring regarding the situation. Bridges emphasizes that these are not done deals, but said, ” The three options include allowing students to switch meal plans to more Bearkat bucks, dropping some of the prices at Tortilla Fresca, and regardless of the whether the first two get implemented or not, setting up a committee consisting of SGA members, students from other organizations, and administrators that will specifically explore meal plans, conduct polls and surveys, and figure out how to better serve students.”

“We found out that in the past Aramark had issues trying to get students’ input on anything meal plan related,” Bridges said.

Bridges said Aramark showed a willingness to work with SGA.

“They were really receptive to our ideas, it was a very cordial meeting, so we are really looking forward to working with them in the future on this stuff and from our perspective it seemed they were really willing to work with us on this.”

The creator of the facebook group has since put an end to his boycott, praising both Aramark and SGA for their efforts to find the best solution for students.

“I think that the agreement made between the SGA and Aramark is fair and will satisfy most of the disgruntled customers. I have put an end to my own personal “boycott” of South Paw and hope that those who are satisfied with the outcome will do the same,” Smith said. “I’d also like to thank those that joined my Facebook group for their support and the SGA for their excellent and swift handling of the issue.”

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