Closed lunch policy has varied effects on lunch businesses

Daphne Yu

Panera's is one of the restaurants near RBHS that will be closed to underclassmen during school hours. Photo by Asa Lory
Panera’s is one of the restaurants near RBHS that will be closed to underclassmen during school hours. Photo by Asa Lory

Walking into school with a B&B Bagel bag one assembly day, freshman Luke Chval, who takes four classes at RBHS, has already experienced the freedom that comes with open lunch and the responsibility that comes with making it back to class on time.
However, Chval’s search for midday chow will no longer be an option starting next year. As a freshman at West Junior High School this year, Chval will be a sophomore at RBHS next year, and district policy has changed to assign underclassmen closed-campus lunch only. Earlier this year, the district surveyed parents and students. The adults were largely in favor of the closed-campus lunch option, while teens were against it, RBHS principal Mark Maus said.
“It’s frustrating,” Chval said. “I don’t understand why [the administration] doesn’t trust sophomores when they have already for so long. And it’s going to be frustrating having a car but not being able to use it.”
While freshmen and sophomores may be disappointed with the decision to limit lunch options, businesses around RBHS that traditionally provide alternative lunch choices have mixed reactions to the new policy.
Jimmy Johns, which is within walking distance of RBHS for students to go to during lunch and make it back to class on time, sells an average of 15-20 subs a day to sophomore walkers, general manager Mallorie Looten said.
However, Jimmy Johns, 212 Corporate Dr., does “get most of the [business from] students who are driving and all pile into one car and come over,” Looten said, and not allowing students to walk would “take away probably 25 percent of our high school business.”
For underclassmen who still want to eat out, Looten says Jimmy Johns will be providing delivery service. As long as students provide a working cell-phone number or are very clear about the pick-up location, Jimmy Johns is willing to send subs over during lunch times.
Nearby eatery B&B Bagels, 124 E. Nifong Blvd., however, will not participate in food delivery to RBHS, as management says underclassmen lunch-policy changes will not impact sales.
“I’m not sure how much the freshman and sophomores not being able to leave campus is going to affect us since they aren’t able to park in the parking lot anyway. They have such a short amount of time,” the manager of B&B Bagels, Brad Newkirk said. “Usually our customers are juniors and seniors here, so I’m not really sure how much it’s going to affect us. And it actually may encourage more people to come in before school as opposed to leaving campus during school.”
Less than a mile away, Panera, 3709 S. Providence Rd., faces a much different problem than B&B Bagels. RBHS students make up a high percent of their lunch business, the Providence area manager Brian Laupp said. In a survey on Bearing News, which started Nov. 30, 2012, 35.71 percent of students who responded said Panera was their favorite place to go for lunch. The bakery has also noticed the vitality of high school students to their business.
“Let’s say we did a whole year without having the opened lunch: that would be thousands of dollars throughout the year in terms of revenue,” Laupp said, who worried about the impact if no students could leave campus for lunch. “I mean, it would literally be a big jolt. We would definitely go down in sales [compared] to this year. It’d be terrible. That’s what drives our lunch business at this location every day. It’s Rock Bridge lunch — 11 o’clock and one o’clock.”
The lack of high school students will not only affect the earnings of Panera, Laupp said, but the store would have to change their work schedule and start cutting back. In fact, the loss of high school business is more detrimental than the loss of college business, Laupp said, since college students usually only come for dinner. On average, RBHS brings in about $3,000-5,000 a week for the bakery.
“There’s nothing good about it,” Laupp said. “I mean, I know it’s about safety and stuff, but I don’t see the point of [closed-campus lunch]. If you can drive, if you’re old enough to get to and from school on your own, then you’re old enough to go to lunch.”
Chval, however, will have to abide by the restrictions of closed-campus lunch. And while Chval will take advantage of places that deliver food and order from those restaurants more often, he doesn’t blame the other businesses for not providing delivery service.
“I probably won’t be getting a Jimmy John sandwich every day, but it’s nice that they’re offering to deliver them to us,” Chval said. “But it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s not as liberating for underclassmen. It’s not other businesses’ fault if they can’t deliver food to us; it’s the school board’s fault we can’t go to them.”
By Daphne Yu