Cafe Mac makes changes: addition of new satellite station


New Cafe Mac Station signs. Photo by Rory Donaghy ‘24.

Justine Ballard, Ad Manager

When students returned to campus in Sept., anyone who wasn’t a first-year was greeted with changes to dining on campus. There was a new meal station in Cafe Mac, the Atrium had been moved and Scotties no longer existed. Questions began to fly and so The Mac Weekly decided to look into the change in order to answer people’s biggest questions about the changes to Cafe Mac. 

The first change most people likely noticed when going to dine inside Cafe Mac was that the names on all of the stations had shifted. “The Flame” is now “Near & Far”, “Plant Forward” is called “Roots & Stalk” and the “Burger Bar” now goes by the name “Grate & Griddle”. 

All of these changes have been motivated by a need to keep the look of the Cafe fresh and exciting for students, according to Amy Tomes, the general manager of Bon Appétit here at Macalester. 

“We wanted to adopt and just try to freshen the look. It really had to do more with the aesthetics,” Tomes said.

Speaking of changes within Cafe Mac, there’s a new station  this year called “Warm & Soulful”. Over the summer, Cafe Mac bought a rotisserie machine for this addition to Cafe Mac. 

“We added ‘Warm & Soulful, which used to be called kind of a, quote, comfort station that was adding just more variety and more options for the students,” Tomes said. 

The next change that students may have noticed was the satellite locations. All three locations faced some kind of a change over the summer that is impacting students in one way or another.

The most obvious satellite location change was the opening of a new station on the second floor of the campus center. What was once known as the Atrium and the go-to place to get sandwiches on campus transformed into a new station called Simple & Certain. 

The idea of the station is that it is free of the top nine major allergens including gluten. It is intended as a place where people who have severe food allergies can go to get food without worrying about cross-contamination. 

The shift was a result of student input asking for a station like Simple & Certain.

“We’ve had requests for that to happen,” Director of Purchasing, Accounts Payable and Auxiliaries Matt Rumpza said. 

“They did do some changes in Cafe Mac, to highlight, you know, some of the allergen free options in Cafe Mac, and then they just decided to put a whole station upstairs away from the food that that can be confined, so to speak, so that there wouldn’t be any sort of allergen [cross contamination],” he continued.

The new station also displaced the Atrium sandwich station, moving it to the Leonard Center so that Simple & Certain could be in the campus center. This move was made in an effort to be more inclusive with dining. 

“Rather than saying, ‘Oh, you have an allergy and you want to, you know, dine at this place, you have to walk across campus to go there,’” Tomes said. “We felt like the most inclusive [option] would be to keep that station in the campus center.”

There are still more changes planned for Simple & Certain. Unlike the Loch or the Atrium, Simple & Certain doesn’t currently have a theme that students can go to as a point of reference for what the new station is all about. 

“We want people to expand their horizons,” Executive Sous Chef Jacob Eayrs said. “The reason why I don’t really think it’s that popular right now is because it’s brand new, people don’t really know about it. There’s so many different options but it doesn’t have a theme.”

Eayrs alluded to a theme coming to Simple & Certain in the future that will be, as he put it, similar to what Scottie’s used to be. Nothing has been announced with those plans, so keep an eye out for when that change does occur in the future. 

A few weeks back in a Mac Daily post, Bon Appétit announced the hours of Simple & Certain  would be permanently shifting to lunch time only. This change was also implemented at the Loch, also called Nessie’s, which had the hours modified over the summer to only lunch hours. With these changes, the only dinner option left is Cafe Mac or the Grille night hours if you’re willing to wait until 8 p.m. to get food. 

“We’re now back to what pre-COVID hours and days are,” Rumpza said. “It was kind of a chaotic time for the last two years to meet the needs of the students based on all this distancing. We’re back now to basically everything … [is] now back to the pre-COVID days. So, in some senses, we’re back to normal.”

Additionally, the hour changes were motivated by the amount of people the locations were seeing at dinner. Particularly Simple and Certain, which would only get eight to ten people over the course of the two-hour serving period.

“At the end of the day, what we’re seeing data-wise is that the students want to be together,” Tomes said. “For dinner, they want to eat together, they want to sit around the table in the cafe and hang out.”

With everyone moving to Cafe Mac for dinner, questions have arisen regarding Cafe functionality, including the soda machines and the ability to take food out of the Cafe.

There used to be four soda machines, two Coke and two Pepsi, in Cafe Mac last year that had a range of different options. Now, the Cafe has downsized to Coke products only. 

“Over the years with having all four of those and two different companies, we had just a ton of management that needed to be involved with it,” Tomes said. “And it was like wait, we need to be more efficient. This is not working.”

The machines have faced a myriad of issues; they often run out of ice and soda syrup by dinner time, spitting out basic soda water when a student might have been hoping for a Coke. 

“Our goal right now is to make that work with just the two,” Tomes said. “We’re just trying to manage and be more efficient and hold our suppliers accountable to get us the product and service the machines when needed, because they are used so frequently that they break down.” 

Addressing the return of the rule that you cannot take items out of Cafe Mac except the green Ozzi containers, Rumpza said that this change is simply a return to pre-COVID. The rules being lax in recent years was due to the COVID-19 restrictions placed by the college. 

“One of the changes, for example, that we switched up for this fall was, you needed to use the reusable containers if you’re gonna go outside,” Rumpza said. “They eased those restrictions over the course of the last two years, and then in fall we went back to, if you’re going to take anything outside of the cafe, you need to use the Ozzi containers. Those were all things that were in place prior to the pandemic.” 

With all of these changes, some students may feel lost and not know how to engage properly with dining options on campus. The first option is with the Macalester Dining Advisory Committee (MDAC), which meets on a monthly basis to discuss student needs in the Cafe. They have made changes in the past with hours of operation based on student requests. 

Another way students may engage with Cafe Mac is to put suggestions or give feedback on the comment board near the Ozzi container machine. If it is helpful feedback or a legitimate suggestion, the team says that they will work to incorporate it into Cafe Mac. 

“We have the comment board out there and we get a lot of positive feedback [and] we get negative feedback,” Eayrs said. “But we like both. We want to know what’s wrong. We want to know if something tastes good.”

“If anybody has ideas, if they have a dish that they used to eat growing up that they want us to try to make, just let us know,” Eayrs continued. “They can email me, just let us know what we can do to make things better.”

When pierogies cooked in a certain way were requested, the meal was added to the menu by Eayrs and cooked the following week to be served in Cafe Mac. 

Tomes reiterates Eayrs’ sentiments, saying that she welcomes productive feedback and that they are always open to hearing from students. 

“We appreciate suggestions and feedback, and we especially are open and welcome to them when they come in a productive fashion,” Tomes said. “And to communicate, just let us know. And email us at any time.”

Anyone looking to get involved with MDAC or to provide feedback can email Tomes at [email protected]. Anyone looking to provide constructive feedback or request a meal can email Chef Eayrs at [email protected] 

[email protected]