GIST Cafeteria Price Increased Due to COVID-19

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Since last April, the prices of the cafeterias on the 1st floor of Student Union Buildings 1 and 2 have increased by 300 won. The cafeteria operator requested a price increase because both cafeterias suffered financial losses due to COVID-19  and inflation. This is causing students to worry about their financial situation.

In December, Hanbit Catering, which operates the student cafeteria, proposed the introduction of a prepaid breakfast voucher and a price increase. Accordingly, the General Affairs Team, and student delegation met the restaurant officials to discuss the plan to increase the price. The operator proposed an increase of 500 won from the previous price. But the student council conveyed the student’s opinion that the increase of 500 won is expensive. As a result, the company agreed to lower the increase to 300 won.

The student council conducted two rounds of surveys on students’ opinions regarding the increase in student cafeteria prices and the introduction of prepaid breakfast vouchers. In the second survey undertaken until March 10, the price increase was finally decided, with the majority (54%, 114 people) agreeing with the decision.

Park Jong-min, CEO of Hanbit Catering, explained that it was inevitable to raise the price at the student cafeteria. Park said that for the past two years, accumulated deficit seems to range from 30 million won to 60 million won.

The company cited a decrease in the number of users during non-face-to-face classes and increases in prices and labor costs as reasons for the loss. According to the company, monthly student cafeteria users decreased from one hundred to fifty during COVID-19.

The increase in Korea’s minimum wage and the recent rise in food costs affected the price increase. As of April 2022, the rate of consumer price increase compared to the previous year was 4.8%, the steepest increase since 2008.

The company proposed the mandatory policy for breakfast to maintain income of the cafeteria. However, the General Affairs Team refused to introduce a mandatory policy because it is not suitable for GIST, where most students have to live in the dormitory. Instead, the conference selected as the final draft an ‘optional-compulsory policy,’ which requires only students who have applied for advance payment to have compulsory breakfast.

Park argued that the breakfast system was a way to improve the quality of student cafeterias. “If stable restaurant income is maintained through the introduction of a prepaid breakfast, we can overcome financial losses, and the quality of dinner and lunch can be improved. In addition, because there is a subsidy from the school, students can easily enjoy high-quality breakfasts. It is a win-win solution for both the cafeteria and students.”

However, the student’s reaction to the breakfast system was cold. Out of 210 people who participated in the survey, only 45 (33 college students and 12 graduate students) said they would apply for a breakfast voucher. The company realized that the survey results did not meet the expected demand, and they canceled the plan. The student’s proposal during the survey was to diversify the payment period for the voucher.

Finally, the restaurant operator promised to improve the quality.  Park said, “We are trying to become a student cafeteria that matches GIST’s high expectation. I understand students hope that the quality of the food will increase as the price increases. We promise to make changes that students can feel.”