Expensive food prices at brix eatery ‘discourage’ customers, limit options


Denis Perez / The Advocate

An average price for an entree piece like a Margherhita, is $5.95.

By Robert Clinton, Opinion Editor

After completion of the Campus Center Project and the opening of its three new buildings, students have become accustomed to the amenities that have transformed Contra Costa College from a college defined by its prominent past to one with a bright future.

None of these improvements make more of a difference than the added food options on campus. Whether it be the culinary art department’s Pronto or Aqua Terra Grill, or even the new vendor on campus, Brix, any of these choices surpass the food options that were on campus over the past few years.

However, increasing the options has not eliminated all the food obstacles on campus.

Some students feel Brix is an unrealistic alternative because some of its prices are too high.

“The prices at Brix have discouraged me from eating here more — especially because my son attends school here too,” health and human services major Sandy Aguilar said.  “Lunch for both of us at Brix is, like, $20.”

Although the culinary arts department offers meals at a reduced price, the hours they keep to accommodate the students in the culinary program often leaves other students without a cost-effective option.

Aqua Terra is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. and Pronto’s hours are more varied with menu options that rotate as often the student work staff.

Students say they are not looking for a complete overhaul of Brix prices, some just want a slight adjustment to make eating there accessible to everyone.

Today, a Comet Classic Burger (without fries) at Brix costs $4.59 while the “Ideal” burger with fries at Pronto costs $3.

“If there was more notice about what was offered there and a clearer way to know what the hours were, it would help because now everything is just word of mouth,” Aguilar said.

According to CCC President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, during the bidding process to find a vendor for cafeteria services, one of the things the committee looked at was the pricing structure that the companies were proposing.

In the case of the eventual winner Brix, its contract articulates the price ranges that the vendor can not exceed.

“After reviewing the prices at Brix near the end of last semester, I checked with our Director of Business Services Mariles Magalong to ensure that Brix was within its pricing tolerance and they were,” Mehdizadeh said. “One of the challenges of having an external vendor on campus that is operating within its contract guidelines is that there is not much that you can do (about its prices).”

The difference in pricing between a burger and fries at Pronto and the same meal at Brix is big. But the difference comes down to one thing — wages. Pronto and Aqua Terra use a student workforce, effectively eliminating a large part of restaurant overhead.

“The department also has an incredible group of chefs who work well with community vendors to get supplies at low cost or no cost in some cases,”  Mehdizadeh said.

The president said CCC used to manage its own food services, but sadly it reached the point where it could not sustain itself.

“Attempting to maintain low prices while remaining in the green is a real challenge, which is why we see the food prices that we do,” she said.

The parent company of Brix, Pacific Dining Food Service Management, lists on its website the mission statement of  providing the highest quality food and service to their growing list of unique clients.

Pacific Dining,  founded in 1989 in San Jose, has grown to include 13 brick and mortar locations throughout California.

“When (Brix) opened, I expected prices to be a little bit cheaper,” Middle College High School student Angela Burnardo said. “If they lowered some of the prices $2 or $3, I would eat there more.”

Brix General Manager Mark Vincent said, “Some students complain about prices, but we offer specials like meal deals or a burger, fries and a drink for $5.99. Also, a lot of the items in here are $1 on Fridays. I don’t think the company will be lowering their prices. I think that the specials balance out some of the high costs.”

But some students still disagree.

“The quality isn’t always the best and the prices (at Brix) are too high,” business administration major Chris Brue said. “If you are going to charge me this much at least switch the menu up sometimes. What really bothers me is when they promote healthy eating and then make soda prices cheaper than drinks that are supposed to be healthy.

“Also, why would I pay $5 for a hamburger when I can go across the street to McDonalds and pay $1.25 — and still be on time to class.”

Brix has made inroads with the campus community this semester by adding meatless Mondays to its menu.

Meatless Mondays is an attempt by Brix to appeal to the healthy eater in its patrons.

The menu has become a favorite of vegetarians on campus and along with promoting healthy eating, it aims to help animals and the environment, while spreading awareness about personal and dietary health.

And, in an attempt to deal with the sustenance deficiencies left by Brix and the culinary arts department, the Associated Student Union has coupled with CCC’s Foundation Services to create a food pantry for students with limited money or food insecurities.

The pantry is available to students who might not have money for the cash-only Pronto or whose limited funds may not be enough for Brix.