Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Students Speak Up About Valencia Food

ORLANDO, Fla. -- How often do you get the chance to speak your mind, about the food you eat every day, directly to the people who make it? Cabin Creek invited anyone and everyone to an open discussion forum last Thursday, on behalf of the food offered at Valencia.

The SGA legislature holds a Town Hall meeting every semester, on every campus. One representative didn’t expect this many people to show up, “we usually have a smaller turnout,” he said.

Ryan Wilson, east campus manager of Cabin Creek, said this was the top selling campus and they made a good choice to hold the discussion there.

Cabin Creek is a major contributor to the school’s overall budget, rolling in an expected $100,000 to go to the school’s “coffers,” as Larry Tackett put it.

He is the co-founder and co-owner of Cabin Creek, along with his wife Gini Tackett.

As the meeting began, Tackett highlighted the main points of the proceeding discussion.

Standing along the walls and strung throughout the audience, students and faculty alike brought with them food and drinks - straight from the cafeteria that Cabin Creek maintains.

When the forum opened up for comments and suggestions from the audience, a female student told the legislative board of that she buys food from them four times per week. She asked why their customers were being treated without respect.

Wilson responded in saying they were “cracking down on employees.” He said, “I take a lot of pride in people being treated fairly. I’ll handle that immediately and try and make it right.”

He suggested that the next time the situation arises, students should bring it to his attention to take care of the problem as soon as it happens.

“I’m always here, even if you can’t see me, I’m always around.”

One student said, “The people are always friendly and warm, the food is great. I have nothing but praise.”

Marissa Sanchez had a different opinion entirely. She said the ratio of price to amount of food doesn’t match up. She suggested they offer a $5 all you can eat buffet from 12 - 2 p.m. to appeal to more customers.

Member of SGA, James Fremming did second the motion.

“Without proper proportion, we will not be able to think to our fullest potential,” he said.

With the steady rise in concern for the environment, among students, the topic of whether Cabin Creek would be “going green” was also brought up. Wilson said that they are switching from foam cups to paper ones and that students would be able to have their own thermoses filled with coffee from the Little Bean Co. to reduce garbage, saying “a big chunk of the budget goes to paper cups.”

The amount of money they have at their disposal is a constant factor for small businesses. “The foam cups are cheaper but have a longer lifespan in landfills,” Wilson said. They are harder to break down.

There was little they could do to reduce energy consumption during school hours, but they will be installing energy efficient lighting fixtures in the cafeteria to help with their overall carbon footprint.

“I’ve been doing this for 15 years and there are always going to be improvements to be made,” Wilson said.

Cabin Creek has a national sales deal with Cisco foods, in that they don’t sell low quality products. This “mom and pop” company is equal to the largest restaurant chains, Tackett said. “The pricing is very fair, compared with campuses of other colleges and neighboring restaurants.”

Student Ian Bowers begged to differ.

“The quality has declined and the price has gone up,” Bowers said. “Back in 2007, the quality of the chicken tenders was like restaurant style, but now you get an inconsistent amount of pieces,” among various other issues.

From the conception of Cabin Creek to its second year, the profit margin leapt from about -$189,000 to -$45,000. This year, the founding board expects further improvement: “I feel very good about this year. It is the first year that we’re in the black instead of the red.” The company is now able to begin to pay off past debt.

The staff of Cabin Creek expressed a personal connection with the college. “We love Valencia,” Tackett said. “You have a place in our hearts.”

Previously published in the Valencia Voice

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