GCC board rethinking money-losing cafeteria

Two months after outsourcing the student bookstore, Glendale Community College officials are turning their attention to another money-losing operation on campus — the cafeteria.

During a presentation to college trustees on Monday, Ron Nakasone, vice president of administrative services, said sales at the Glendale Community College cafeteria are on a steady decline. In the 2004-05, the operation was making nearly $1.2 million, he said. Last year, that figure was down to $778,000.

Meanwhile, the college has increased its financial support in order to keep the cafeteria in the black, Nakasone said. In 2004-05, the college picked up $80,000 in cafeteria costs, while in 2010-11 that figure grew to $221,000.

Nakasone attributed the financial instability of the cafeteria to the recession, increased competition and the high cost of staff salaries and benefits. He also said the elimination of the winter session and the second summer session has resulted in less foot traffic and lower sales.

“This is definitely going to have an impact on this year’s financial statements because we have 11-month employees,” Nakasone said. “We basically have 10 months of sales with 11 months of salaries.”

College trustee Ann Ransford questioned whether the drop in sales might be due in part to changing attitudes about food.

Especially for the college student demographic, she said, “It seems like fast food is the deal for a lot of these folks, especially if you are on a limited budget.”

Many of California’s 112 community colleges have to financially support their cafeterias, as well as student bookstores and child development centers, Nakasone said.

But the goal is to make the Glendale Community College cafeteria self-sustaining, he added.

There have already been efforts to boost sales, including reviewing pricing, menu options and portion sizes. Officials also added a salad bar and a blue-plate special, and started accepting credit cards.

Glendale Community College could explore opportunities to take the cafeteria in the same direction as the student bookstore, Nakasone said.

In October, trustees approved a deal with Follett High Education Group Inc. to assume management responsibilities of its student bookstore, which had been operated by the student government association but was losing tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Under the terms of the agreement, Follett will pay the college a commission based on a percentage of gross annual sales — 12.4% of revenue up to $4 million and 13.4% of revenue in excess of $4 million.

But contracting out the cafeteria would be more complicated than contracting out the bookstore was, Nakasone said. That’s because cafeteria jobs fall within the California School Employees Assn., a powerful classified school employees union.

“If we are going to contract out, we would have to get some sort of agreement with CSEA and we would have to make sure that no employee would lose their jobs,” Nakasone said.

Classified employee union President Saodat Aziskhanova made it clear that her members’ jobs would be protected.

“It is really insulting when we are putting here ‘outsourcing opportunities,’” said Aziskhanova, referring to a line in Nakasone’s presentation. “How can it be [an opportunity to outsource] people who have been here 20, 30 years working? All cafeteria workers are long-term employees.”

Possible changes to cafeteria operations will return to college trustees sometime next year, said President/Supt. Dawn Lindsay.

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