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A Subway or Wawa on campus would be a cash cow: we need real food

in CAMPUS/DINING/VIEWPOINTS by

We’ve had enough. We’re hungry. We can’t eat any more Mercer cheeseburgers that have patties as thin as the Olsen twins. Even the salad bar has lettuce that is stale and old. When Lessings took over the college cafeteria a couple of years ago, the prices went up and food quality–which had never been that great to begin with–went down.

Here’s what we want: a decent franchise eatery: a Wawa, a Dunkin Donuts, a Subway or even a Starbucks. Brookdale Community College has a Starbucks. Brookdale! Rider got a Subway that is open until 2am, 7 days a week.

The VOICE polled 32 students and all but one said they would like a food franchise open on the West Windsor campus. The other guy didn’t look like he understood the question. We didn’t poll the faculty, but asking around, we gather the faculty are just as hungry for a hoagie as we are.

At this point, most Mercer students either bring a bag lunch or drop by the Wawa that’s a five minute drive from campus. The prices are much fairer there, and there are more and better food options than we have on campus. But this isn’t a reasonable solution. Driving around is wasteful of gas.

Bottom line: Mercer needs a proper food court.

For the college, any food franchise would generate multiple revenue streams. First there is the  rent for the space, and second there are likely to be more students willing to stay on campus later who can help fill up those night classes, because they don’t have to worry about starving to death. Same thing with early morning students, many of whom are coming off of night shifts. They just need a decent coffee. Provide better food and enrollment may go up, or at least more classes might run fuller.

The second advantage is to the health of the students. Although Dunkin may not be that healthy, Wawa, Subway and even Starbucks have healthy, fresh options. If our health improves, we are less likely to miss class. That’s no joke. We have no health center on campus, and our student body includes a lot of low income kids who are at high risk for health problems like diabetes. Sick students miss class and drop out of school. Students who have a nice turkey and ham hoagie in the afternoon are nourishing their bodies and their brains.

In terms of the financial details, the Subway website says: “The total investment can range from $114,800 to $258,300 for traditional locations and $84,300 to $200,100 for non-traditional locations.  This includes your franchise fee, construction and equipment costs as well as operating capital.”

Though this may seem like a hefty price, we know for a fact that Mercer spent $160,000 on those gaudy neon signs at the two entrances to the campus. The VOICE reported on it in 2012. Any student will tell you they’d rather have a normal school sign and a Subway sandwich shop than a blinky sign and those chicken McNasties.

Besides, the college is planning to bring a whole bunch more international students to Mercer, so let’s give them a real taste of America. After all, it’s what they came for.

Bringing in a decent food franchise will definitely pay off in the long run when students are forming mile-long lines in the caf to get at that tasty goodness. Admins take note, those long lines may snake as far as the registration offices. You want to keep us near those, right?

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