Students who complain that the price for on-campus cuisine is too high may be on to something.
Owners of some on-campus restaurants say they inflate prices to compensate for the commission the University charges GWorld vendors.
Ed Schonfeld, senior associate vice president of administration, refused to disclose the commission it charges on GWorld purchases, but one store owner said he pays $0.08 for every $1 charged on a GWorld card, plus an additional 10 cents for every swipe.
“I pay the University between $300 and $400 a day from GWorld purchases,” the owner, who requested anonymity to protect his relationship with the University, said. “I have had to raise prices because of the University taking a percentage for GWorld, and I also can’t carry some products that I used to carry,” he said.
He raises his prices about 10 percent on items, he said, adding that because there is no minimum amount for a GWorld charge at his venue, it sometimes costs him money if a patron buys cheap items.
The owner said he worked with the University to lower the commission charge so he could maintain reasonable prices.
“I was able to get my fees down half a percent by building a reputation with the GWorld offices, which saves us about $5,000 a year,” he said. “I care about students and try to offer them cheap prices.”
Five owners of on-campus venues said they are forced to charge more because of the GWorld commission.
Devlin Keating, a co-owner of Foggy Bottom Grocery, said his store’s prices account for the GWorld commission.
“The margin on groceries hurts us a lot more than on prepared foods,” Keating said. “Unlike prepared sandwiches, which cost around $6, many of FoBoGro’s smaller grocery items cost less than $1, making it hard to profit from such sales.”
Unlike smaller venues on campus, chain restaurants like Au Bon Pain, Potbelly and Starbucks charge standard prices for their products.
Keating said he thinks the problem has been exacerbated by the mandatory dining money freshmen and sophomores must spend at J Street.
“It’s unfair that some money must be spent at J Street because local businesses get less of a market,” he said. “But the University still takes the same [commission] percent.”