Hot food vendor gets out of kitchen: Insufficient sales cited from WCC cafe closure

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Wilson Community College student Reggie Webb is going to miss the hot food service in the student lounge.

Carolina Cheese Co. is no longer operating The Campus Bistro at WCC due to a decrease in sales volume.

Webb, a WCC graduate who is taking additional classes, is at the college from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

“I used to eat here, breakfast and lunch,” Webb said.

Webb can’t imagine making it through the day on the peanut butter and crackers from a vending machine.

The kitchen served a mixture of hot, ready-made and reheated food with items such as chicken tenders, fries, grilled chicken, sweet potato fries, pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers.

“We need one out here,” Webb said. “The food was good.”

“During the spring semester, it was always crowded,” said Jose Martins, a WCC student.

The cafe operated in the spring and fall from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. In the summer, the hours were the same, but it was just open Monday through Thursday.

“The biggest business that these guys had was the Wilson Early College Academy, but they are not here in the summer,” said Jessica Bailey, director of institutional advancement at WCC. “We have students here all year long, so all of our students would benefit from it and the faculty and staff as well.”

Jessica Jones, vice president of finance and administrative services, told the WCC Board of Trustees last week that Carolina Cheese Co. had to terminate its lease because the sales volume had dropped tremendously and was not enough to continue operations.

Jones said the college waived the rental fees for the company for the months of May through August, but even with that, the cafe was not viable.

“Over the summer, our WECA students are not on campus, and that’s probably the big population of their customers,” Jones said.

Jones said she believes WCC should have a fresh food option for its students.

WCC is seeking requests for proposals for its campus food service operation and is looking to offer a two-year contract if a company can be found.

“We’ve got one company interested. We feel like we have more than one to compare it to, so we are going to advertise again to see if we can pick up more again and maybe go outside of Wilson and try to advertise also in Greenville and Rocky Mount,” Jones said.

WCC President Tim Wright said the Board of Trustees will have to sign off on the contract, possibly at its September meeting.

“We are just going ahead and doing the preliminary stuff to see what interest is out there and who it might be and so forth,” Wright said.

Maintaining food service at the college has been difficult, Wright said.

“I think one food service had failed right before I got here in the summer of 2015, and when I got here, we got another one, and that one lasted for several years and just failed a year ago, or something like that, and now we just got this one who was there a year and failed, so it’s a spotty track record,” Wright said. “I think it has to do with our size for one thing, and we are kind of on the edge of size to support very much of an operation, and so we have talked through all of this and we think the best thing is we would like to get some kind of at least minimal, simple food service there.”

Wright said in his opinion, previous vendors may have tried to do a little too much rather than keeping the menu basic and simple.

“So we are hoping to get somebody who thinks they can do that and can make enough that they think it would be worth it,” Wright said. “I just don’t like the idea of not having any food service on campus.”

For the time being, the lounge has conventional vending machines.

The college will hold a mandatory pre-proposal meeting at 2 p.m. on Aug. 7 at Building F. Room 103B. RFP packets will be distributed at the meeting, and attendance is required for a company’s proposal to be considered.

For additional information, call Donna A. Turner, WCC purchasing and capital project manager, at 252-246-1240 or email daturner@wilsoncc.edu.