Ursa’s Cafe to halt food service: Declining revenues lead to Nov. 24 stop date

| Contributing Reporter
Student Life Archives
Students wait in line at Ursa’s Cafe on the South 40. The late-night establishment, which currently serves Mediterranean cuisine in addition to its traditional crepes and milkshakes, will cease serving food after Nov. 24.

Friday night crepes at Ursa’s will soon be a thing of the past.

Dining Services is permanently discontinuing food service in Ursa’s Cafe after Nov. 24 due to a decline in popularity that has made the space a losing investment.

Most of the popular food items will move to new locations on campus—crepes and bubble tea will be available in Cherry Tree Cafe, and the gyros and other Mediterranean cuisine items will move to the Danforth University Center to provide a new dinner option. No decisions have been made regarding the ice cream and milkshakes.

But the change marks a new chapter in the life of Ursa’s Cafe, which has been losing money for years.

The cafe will now be used exclusively as a programming venue.

Dining Services Manager Paul Schimmele said food was not seen as an enhancement to the programming that the administration felt should be the space’s primary role on the South 40. He noted that students rarely purchased food in conjunction with an event they were attending and instead ate before or after, making the food available in Ursa’s irrelevant.

The overhead required to staff and stock the space has consistently been greater than the revenue Ursa’s has brought in, and Dining Services concluded that it could better serve students by redirecting funds toward improving more popular campus eateries, Schimmele said.

“The one thing that students would talk about—they may not go there often—but boy, they like those crepes,” Schimmele said. “We kind of made a promise years ago that whether we discontinued food service or not, we would continue to have crepes.”

Members of the community have expressed sadness that food will no longer be served in Ursa’s.

“Of course we’re disappointed about Bon Appetit’s decision,” freshman Sierra Kindig, a member of College Council’s Ursa’s committee, said, “But it’s really out of our control.”

The space has been a South 40 hangout since it first opened in the 1990s. Prior to 2008, Ursa’s served an essential need because fire-code-limited Bear’s Den could seat only 198 students at any one time and a supplemental eatery was necessary for the nearly 3,000 students that reside on the South 40 each year.

“The intention way back when was to give students a place to gather. And when you look at the South 40 years ago, that was a challenge,” Schimmele, said.

However, the 2008 remodel of Bear’s Den and South 40 House, which greatly expanded seating, changed the role that Ursa’s played, making made the space redundant with regard to food service.

“Once the new Bear’s Den opened, there was no reason to go there unless you were interested in that programming for that night,” Schimmele said.

Particular devotees of Ursa’s have expressed disappointment.

“Of course I’m sad [to hear it’s closing],” sophomore Fabian Barch said. “Ursa’s literally gives me life. It’s my pick-me-up, treat-yourself-cause-life’s-hard reward.”

“It’s slightly upsetting that a place like Ursa’s is shutting down,” freshman Michael Chu said. “It’s always been a solid option to hang out late at night and get a change of scenery and food from BD.”

  • Ted

    Ursa’s hardly deserves to be called “later night.” It just really isn’t needed. BD and even Pause & Go are open later and fill the niche better.

  • Luiz

    I like the Gyro but the old menu was way better. Connie must bring the quesadilla and savory crepes back to save Ursa’s!

  • will

    Maybe if dining services actually put effort into making Ursa’s efficient and had someone at the cash register to check people out they would have more revenue.