At Dunster Grille, students pay $3.50 for mozzarella sticks. But only a few block away at Eliot Grille, another student with the same late-night craving pays $4.00, due to price discrepancies that exist between the four grilles in undergraduate houses.
Despite the discrepancies, grille managers said that business has not suffered, as their unwitting customers are generally unaware of the price differentials, and favor the convenience of grille food.
The four grilles—located in Dunster, Quincy, Eliot, and Pforzheimer—independently set the prices for individual menu items based on the cost of each item and its popularity among students, according to incoming Quincy Grille manager Margaret Jiang ’14.
Managers at Quincy, Dunster, and Eliot Grilles all noted that the most popular menu item is mozzarella sticks. Though the full menu offerings are identical from house to house, at the Quad and Dunster Grilles, a serving of mozzarella sticks costs $3.50. In Quincy, the order costs $3.75. Eliot charges the most with its $4.00 order.
Across the menu, Dunster and the Quad offer the cheapest food, while Eliot and Quincy tend to be pricier, charging as much as a dollar more for certain items.
Though all four house grilles order ingredients from Sysco—the food supplier used by Harvard University Dining Services—some grilles make a profit while others struggle to cover the cost of purchasing food and paying employees.
Elena M. Pepe ’13, one of the Eliot Grille managers, said that Eliot Grille was shut down during the fall semester of 2010 because it could not cover its costs.
But now Eliot Grille is currently turning a profit, and that its management hopes to lower prices soon, Pepe said.
Dunster Grille, which has not had the same success, relies on a yearly $1,000 boost from Dunster HoCo, according to Golbari.
Golbari said that Roger and Ann Porter, Dunster House Masters, support the Dunster Grille because it fosters house spirit, and the students who run the Grille host community events like game nights and movie nights.
“The Porters wanted to make the Grille a House thing.... We provide food for study breaks and Dunster Happy Hours,” said Golbari.
Dunster Grille caters largely to its own residents and Matherites, while Leverett residents tend to frequent Quincy Grille instead.
“[Quincy Grille] offer some of the cheaper late night food in the Square and [we] try to keep it that way,” wrote Quincy Grille Manager Mackenzie L. Luick ’13 in an email. “We do have to account for extra costs such as being able to pay our employees well too.”
As the most centrally located of the grille locations, Quincy Grille makes a consistent annual profit.
“During the week, it’s mostly Quincy residents and people studying in Quincy dining hall [at Quincy Grille],” said Luick.
According to Jiang, the managers typicall split the profit—which totals at about $1,000—at the end of the year.
But now they are looking to use that profit to further enrich house life, Jiang said.
“We’ve [been] trying to institute this ‘Quincy Grille gives back’ program because we want to improve Quincy life,” Jiang said.
—Staff writer Virgina R. Marshall can be reached at email@example.com.