Accessibility of Dinner at Nobles

Owen Harrington, Staff Writer

October 20, 2023

Whether you are a five-day boarder who dines in the Castle three times a day or a day student who has never stayed for dinner, we have all heard a great deal about the polarizing changes to the Castle meals this year. Prices have increased again for both breakfast and dinner, sign-ups are more strictly enforced, and the old Castle is now closed during dinner. These changes have been the topic of much discussion, and while they may seem arbitrary at first, the reasoning behind them is sound, and they are necessary to allow FLIK to continue to offer the highest quality that they can, for each and every meal.

Although they are getting significantly more attention this year, changes to dinner and other meals are not an uncommon occurrence. This year marked the third price increase to dinner in the past three years, as it had risen from $5 in 2020, to $6 in 2021, and now $8 this year. In addition, the newly implemented QR code system is replacing the dinner checklist and proctor, which have only existed for the last three years. The new restriction of allowing students to eat dinner in only the new Castle is a completely new change; however, it serves only to help enforce the preexisting rules.

(Photo Credit: Avery Winder)

The need for stronger enforcement of these rules became evident towards the end of last year, as a significant number of students began staying for dinner regardless of whether or not they had signed up before 3 p.m. This put significant pressure on FLIK, who, without adequate notice, was unable to feed everyone that was arriving and expecting food. When asked about the uptick in students staying for dinner, Director of Dining Services Matthew Burek said, “What ended up happening was that there [were] a lot of students who either didn’t plan or just forgot to sign up so we went from having an average of 120 meals a night at the beginning of the year to pushing 200 to 220 meals each night by the end of the year.” The old Castle in particular became a haven for these students, as it allowed them to sit out of sight from the proctor on duty. By closing off this space and implementing a more streamlined system for students to keep their reservations, FLIK and the school aim to reduce the number of students trying to dine without prior sign-up.

Even with everyone following the rules and making their reservations before 3 p.m., FLIK still faces the challenges plaguing the food service industry as a whole. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food prices have risen over 18 percent since 2020, with costs in certain categories, such as eggs, increasing by 32 percent in the same time period. These costs are only projected to increase. Burke commented on this, saying, “I have to put variety in the menu, but that all comes at a cost…I have a bit of a hard time with that because I have to provide according to the budget.” The only viable solution to the rising costs was to raise the price of both breakfast and dinner, allowing FLIK to continue providing a highly quality and varied menu. 

“I have to put variety in the menu, but that all comes at a cost.”

That being said, food is only a portion of FLIK’s total operating costs, which are dwarfed by labor costs. The United States Chamber of Commerce reported that the cost of consistent labor in the service industry has risen at a faster rate than any other industry, forcing employers such as FLIK to pay more in order to stay adequately staffed. “Dinner is particularly difficult, because if we suddenly have more dinner sign-ups than we were expecting, then we need more labor to prepare all of those meals, and there needs to be some kind of incentive to stay late,” Burek said. The food service industry is filled with unexpected hurdles and rapid changes that make Burke and his team’s jobs very challenging. Despite this, they are always working as hard as possible to ensure the highest quality for each and every student, keeping them powered throughout the day. It is our job as members of this community to thank FLIK for all that they do by abiding by these new rules and remembering to sign up for meals on time because doing so truly does make a difference.

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