The Joliet Junior College Romeoville campus made the decision at the end of the 2018 spring semester to do away with the traditional cafeteria.
Most people are familiar with Joliet Junior College’s main campus, but one of the best things about JJC is that it has a total of five extension campuses. These campuses are located in Romeoville, Morris, Frankfort, Weitendorf, and City Center in downtown Joliet.
Over the summer, JJC decided to take out the traditional cafeteria and decided to go with an outside vendor, a company called Hometown Vending. The company is in charge of the vending machines at the main campus as well.
The financial loss of the cafeteria was too great to continue to stay open for another year. JJC was losing almost $30,000 a semester, and it ended up being considered a huge loss to the college out of the mere 32 weeks of it being open.
“It was a financial decision based on current enrollment, and support from student and staff,” Terry Pagoria, Joliet Junior College Food Service Manager of 14 years said. “We wanted to have some sort of food service there so the market is much like an extended version of vending.”
The market has no investment, but the school will get commission. This will make sure there will not be another loss of funds that great.
The selection was put on hold over the course of a few weeks over the summer, and was not officially approved by the college board until their August meeting. The market was not open for student use until after the Labor Day holiday.
Instead of just using regular vending machines, the college decided to put in a new form of vending used called “micromarket.” The micromarket is much like a corner store, but it is also self-serve. Business experts predict this new form of vending will make over $7 billion by the end of 2020.
The vendor has an option of supplying over 400 different items, but for now these options are not available. The market, at the moment, has packaged deli sandwiches, muffins, candy bars, fruit, sodas, milk, energy drinks, water, and coffee.
Since the market does not have cashiers, purchases at the market must be used with a card or the mobile app called Company Kitchen at the kiosk. Once the app is downloaded, cash can be used but change will be put into an account balance. While the app is scanned and in use, the user also most scan their fingerprint. The app is able to give discounts on certain food items, like 30% off a bag a chips, or buy one bag of chips and get one free. The app also shows your previous purchases.
A big perk to the market is the fact the market is open when campus is, which means that students are able to make purchases during weekend and night-time classes. At the main campus, the cafeteria is closed by 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on Fridays.
Students and staff have different opinions on the change. One of the main complaints from students is that the market lacks the old options which used to be served. Students miss the opportunity to be able to have hot meals.
“I’ve heard different reactions. I’ve heard some that were upset because the cafeteria went away. Other students have adapted very well to it,” Pagoria said.
Other students don’t mind the change because of never used the cafeteria to begin with and some only used it for the microwaves, which are still in the same location.
Some students even like the quick pace environment over having an actual cafeteria.
“It’s my freshman year, and I’m not really sure how it was like before, but I definitely come here when I saw it was open, and whenever I need a snack. And I’m normally on campus too so it’s nice,” said JJC Romeoville campus student, Ethan Spangenberg.
Although the old cafeteria is not in use anymore, the equipment is still in the same location. Pagoria hopes to one day see a regular cafeteria reopen at the Romeoville Campus. Right now, the equipment is hidden with the use of large dividers.
“I think the reason we did not put up drywall, and didn’t remove any equipment is because the hope is that a couple years down the road enrollment will be up. The market could close up and food services can reopen,” Pagoria said.
The Romeoville Campus was open in 1993, and last year’s spring enrollment reached 550 students along with 105 faculty and staff members.
Romeoville Campus had their cafe located in the campus’s A building. The cafe featured pastries, deli sandwiches, grilled sandwiches, fries, pizza, candy, chips, salads, fruit cups, pop and other energy drinks, hand made smoothies and coffee.