If there’s one thing that UCI students spend the most money on, myself included, it’s most likely food. Of course, the one area we frequent regularly for food is the University Town Center, where Veggie Grill is located. What I always liked about Veggie Grill and its student discount was the fact that it was not only helping community vegetarians get a cheap meal because, let’s be real, getting “locally sourced” organic vegetarian food isn’t the cheapest option for someone on a budget. It also helps students get a meal for under ten bucks. For six dollars, you get an entrée and a drink. At UTC, that’s not a regular thing. Go to anywhere else in the plaza. Cha, Blaze, Eureka, etc. and you will spend $4 on a drink alone.
But now the discount is gone. What’s worse, the employees who are making the food themselves and serving it have to pay for their food as well. If you ask me, I see Veggie Grill slowly turning into a UCI Dining-esque establishment: stingy, heavy with regulations, and full of strict employee guidelines. However, while UCI Dining has a monopoly on the convenience of campus food on-the-go, Veggie Grill does not. They have competition, some of which exists literally across from them, like Tender Greens. I don’t think that raising prices will be giving them that competitive edge against Tender Greens. It will probably result in the loss of business.
Rising menu prices AND removing the discount at the same time pains us students. I have multiple friends who go to Veggie Grill regularly specifically for the student discount because the rest of the UTC is too expensive. (You can still eat cheap at the UTC if you go to Taco Bell or In N Out, but you won’t be able to eat healthy for cheap, that’s for sure). As if we already couldn’t afford half the shit at the UTC, you’re going to join the coalition of restaurants trying to serve the Irvine community residents over the students? The ones who spend more time here than the residents? Give us a break. Or at least do it gradually within a six-month period. We are too used to seeing this happen, but if you were to do it slowly we’d be less likely angry about it.
If Veggie Grill was only removing the student discount, I could try to sympathize with them. It certainly costs more to make their vegetarian dishes than what they are charging with the discount. However, to charge their own employees and raise prices all at the same time is kind of a piss-off to all of their clientele, especially to employees. If anything, it is the employees I feel for the most. I used to work at a dining establishment at UC Irvine, which I will not name. There was a time when we had our rights. We were entitled to this free item after X amount of hours worked. We got discounts on other ones if they weren’t free.
Then management changed.
We had to pay full price for anything we wanted to eat or drink, regardless of whether it was while we were working or not. We also were watched by shift leads like hawks on the register: upsell, upsell, upsell – or you’re getting a strike. During happy hour for certain food items, our manager hid the most expensive items in the fridge to ensure we weren’t losing too much money. It made for a very stressful environment and I feel that the same may happen for the employees of Veggie Grill. A key component in a company’s mission should be keeping the employees happy too. They are the face of the company. They are also the ones recommending the food items to customers, so how are they going to recommend items when they themselves can’t even afford to try everything?
Overall, this isn’t a good business move for Veggie Grill. If anything, it encourages people to check out Tender Greens now that it’s open!
Katrina Yentch is a fourth-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at email@example.com.
****DISCLAIMER: We have been notified that as of this morning, Veggie Grill will once again provide the student discount at their UTC location****