The view of PCC's former food serving area as seen in the Piazza. It's seating area currently functions as a study space for PCC students.

The Piazza, located in the CC building, is usually a place filled with students looking to get food. It’s known for being loud, crowded and hosting a number of hungry students. Now, in the recent hybrid semester of Fall 2021, the place is quiet, the cafeteria closed, with it’s seating area now used by many students as a place to study with friends.

So what happened to the Piazza?

At the beginning of the pandemic, the sudden shutdown of campus in the middle of the semester was an unfortunate event for the business owners of the Cafeteria. With the main source of consumers not there to buy any food, there was no one to cook for.

“Their contract ended,” Darlene M. Inda, executive director of business services said.

Coincidentally, the contract ended that semester. With no students on campus in the Fall of 2020 and the Spring of 2021, there was no demand to get a new vendor, or a company to serve food for the students.

With staff and faculty unable to get food when the campus reopened over the summer, the dilemma carried over to the start of Fall 2021, forcing students to go off campus for a quick bite.

As for the business side, with different moving parts in business, contracts, and requirements it takes time to create a contract. Finding a new vendor, shooting proposals back and forth and making revisions, business deals take months to develop.

So as a temporary fix, Business Services decided to bring in some food trucks to have food options for students and staff in replacement of the Piazza and the cafeteria.

“The food trucks are temporary until we find a new vendor,” Inda said.

As seen at Lancer Pass, food trucks show up on certain days of the week to provide students and staff with food like Dinas Dumpling, Maravilla Latin Cuisine, Go Fusion Grill, and Wise BBQ.

Throughout the semester, Inda has been reaching out to different vendors who are willing to deliver the specificities that the campus needs them in order to provide students food. Such specificalites include: Covid-19 protocols, safety, nutrition, price friendly options, as well as willing to work with the Lancer Pantry to minimize food waste.

“My ultimate goal is quality food at a good price,” Inda said. “I wanted something creative, I wanted vendors to come up with something new. New menu ideas, how they would serve satellite campuses.What I would really like is to have a student menu option, like a 5 dollar meal for lunch, with hamburger, french fries and a coke, and a dessert.”

A food contract for PCC goes for a three year contract, with an option to renew their contract for another year, given that the students and the vendors mutually benefit from the food and its business. After 5 years, a new cycle of looking for vendors that can give the specific wants the school needs will be needed and a new contract will be written.

“Vendors are in service of the Piazza, the Lancer Pass cafeteria, the Child Development Center, they provide formula, baby food, and lunches for the toddlers. And then also Foothill and Rosemead Campuses.”

The school has already requested proposals to prospective vendors, as well as the list of needs and wants mentioned above. The school is now waiting for prospective vendors to give an RFI or request for information to develop a plan, any information that might help them create an equally beneficial business plan.

“October 14, is the due date to send their proposals.”

The vendors are then responsible for creating a request for proposals to create a business plan that will fit their desired needs, such as: market analysis, development strategies and any product and services that are unique to them that gives a better advantage to its other competitors.

A committee of students, faculty, and staff will then review all the proposals together and see what best fits their needs. The committee will also have a taste test of the variety of food that will be produced and that will account into the business plan.

“As inclusive as positive, ” Inda said. ”I wanted the entire campus involved.”

The committee is composed of an academic senate, associated student, board of trustees, staff, teachers, chefs.

As for the coffee shop in front of the E-building.

“I have a current local vendor ‘Cafe De Leche’ that we are working on a contract with that will run the Java Hut for a year.”

At the moment the company is getting their equipment approved by the city of Pasadena. The space for the Java hut is under renovation, with newly painted walls and revised space and is projected to be up and running soon. This local company is the best choice to support a small business that’s great for the city and also support students in getting a quick caffeine fix.

“They will create a 12 month contract that will host the coffee shop,” Inda said.“They also have a special pcc menu just for students at lower cost, that was my biggest thing. They are huge on quality. Their coffee is amazing. “

While the Piazza is still multiple paperworks and approvals away, the Java Hut is soon to open. As the winter is coming, a nice cup of coffee to warm up the minds of the students is a great way to get the day started.

The implementation of new food spots on campus comes after the infamous history of PCC’s former vendor, I-8 food services, who allowed a registered sex offender to work in both the Piazza and Lancer Pass cafe on campus.

Previous coverage of this incident can be found here.

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