Over winter break, the menu of the campus’ real favorite place to eat saw some major additions. Sayles’s bakery has, in the words of one student, “really stepped up it’s game. Really.”
Behind the glass-paned counter are found nowadays a whole host of new products never before sold in Sayles. About 7 or 8 new items have been added- from biscotti to pies and colorful rice-krispie treats and the bakery looks fuller and more attractive than ever before.
This particular expansion, which is uniquely within the bakery, seems to have been greatly appreciated by students across campus. New ideas and new items have been brought to the scene, and people seem to love it.
The plan to increase the number of items offered in the bakery began with Britton Good, a sous-chef at Sayles. This project of expansion had been underway for some time, and at the very beginning of this term, months of planning saw all aspirations realized.
This idea emerged from Sayles and was realized there – external influence was not a driving factor in these changes. The LDC and Burton occasionally participate in mutual reshuffling of staff, as part of an initiative to expose chefs to new environments and to grant them opportunities for new experiences and positions of work. This term, the two dining halls again witnessed some mingling and migration of talent.
At Sayles café, however, things work a bit differently – their personnel are generally kept there, and Sayles maintains a sort of structural autonomy not had by either dining hall. So the ideas pitched and worked out in Sayles are not the result of mingling or borrowing from other places, but rather come from within the system.
In the past, changes to Sayles’s menu have largely featured additions drawn from a pool of previously offered dishes. In an interview, Bob Ekegren, chef and administrator, described to me the cyclical refreshing of the menu as based purely on demand.
Often, new things are wildly popular, but over time, as the charm of novelty wears off of any given item, demand wanes and, often, nearly peters out.
To counter this, to keep the menu full of interesting dishes, many items are cyclically pulled off and put back on the menu. In the past, Sayles has featured such items as cheesesteak, Cubano sandwiches, egg rolls, and taquitos. Gradually, as demand for each of these items tapered off, they were removed and replaced with others – this year, for example, the Arunde Burger has recently been added to the menu.
Occasionally, innovations and combinations are introduced as well – in the next two or three weeks, a brand new combo of chicken fingers and fries is set to appear on the menu. All these changes are to be reflected on the actual menu boards hanging in Sayles with their updating at the end of each term.
The management aims to keep Sayles in touch with the preferences of the student body – when they come across hits, they try to further them.
“We like to mix things up here,” one chef once mentioned to me. Last weekend, for the Superbowl, Sayles cut parts of its late-night menu and kept the taco bar open until closing. When students respond favorably to changes, Sayles Café does its best to cater to whatever is most appreciated, and students can make their preferences clear in multiple ways.
Aside from simply buying or not buying certain items, students are able to submit practically anything at all to a comments box whose contents are actually read– suggestions for new items on the menu, combination ideas, tips, notes on preferences, and complaints about what isn’t liked.
When asked how vocal students were as a whole, Bob responded “Well, very vocal, when we do something you don’t like.” Unsurprisingly, Carleton students seem to be exceptionally prone to action in this regard – when Sayles makes an unpopular decision, suddenly the student body begins to flood the comments box with complaints.
With Carleton’s meal policy shift, seeing the 12-meal plan replaced by the significantly more livable and popular 15-, Sayles has been seeing significantly more business than before. Nowadays, more students have more dining dollars to spend at the Café, and, because of that, Sayles reports an 8% rise in profits over the last term, compared to data from the spring of 2014.
As the menu continues to grow and change, and more attractive options are offered to meet the demand of students, it’s likely that even more people will be drawn to Sayles, and to the 15-meal plan, in the future.
The expansion of Sayles’s bakery menu marks a widely – appreciated addition to the café as a whole to better cater to the student body. In the future, as the menu continues to adapt, and Carls keep voting with their wallets and suggestions, surely many new and interesting things will appear. For now, we’ve got plenty to appreciate.