With Sinfully Asian’s contract scheduled to expire in May, McGill Food and Dining Services (MFDS) will determine in the coming months what will happen to its location on the main floor of the Bronfman Building.
Upcoming decisions include whether MFDS, which works under under McGill Housing and Hospitality Services, will renew its lease with Sinfully Asian or allow a new restaurant to take its place, as well as additional decisions concerning renovations or other changes to its physical location.
According to MFDS Director (Food and Hospitality Services) Mathieu Laperle, Sinfully Asian and other businesses will have the opportunity to submit proposals for using the space early this semester. A committee comprised of students, MFDS staff, and employees from various departments and services will make the final decision in March.
Laperle said Sinfully Asian is currently one of the most popular destinations on campus, but MFDS is also open to changing the partnership.
“We need to [always] make sure the food is safe, [has] affordable prices, and with nice concepts, and also to be different on campus,” Laperle said. “Who would be the best partner to provide that service?”
To determine the needs of students, Laperle said he has met with students from the Faculty of Management—the main clientele of the location. Last semester, the Management Undergraduate Society (MUS) conducted an online survey of over 1,600 students from all faculties regarding their opinions of Sinfully Asian.
According to Joël Taillefer, president of the MUS, the survey indicated that students enjoy Sinfully Asian but want to see some changes.
“They liked the food, but it’s just too expensive, and the quality is not really there,” Taillefer said. “The variety of food too, like vegetarian options in cooked meals— there are not a lot of them—and gluten-free alternatives. There needs to be a little more consideration for all the students.”
In November 2013, U1 Management student Henri St-Pierre created a group on Facebook entitled “Students for Chipotle at McGill,” which tried to gather support from the McGill community to bring a Chipotle Mexican Grill to Bronfman to replace Sinfully Asian. The group has over 900 members.
“The Chipotle [idea] just took off,” Taillefer said. “The thing is, it’s very cute, but the problem is there is no Chipotle in Quebec for a very good reason. I’m pretty sure they don’t have the licenses.”
Often restaurants find it difficult to franchise in Quebec due to the province’s unique set of laws and language policies.
In addition, Asian cuisine remained a popular suggestion within MUS survey.
“That is one thing that [MFDS] told me—that they don’t want to walk away from the Asian cuisine type,” Taillefer said. “What I’ve heard is maybe they were thinking of a mix of two kinds of food in one area. So maybe half would sell Mexican food and the other half would sell Asian food.”
If Sinfully Asian renews the space, Laperle said he would still like to see some renovations in the location.
“We need to do some investment in the location in terms of the serving, the way we get the food,” he said. “We [also] need to find a way to work with the flow, because it’s very busy.”
Laperle added that renegotiating a contract with Sinfully Asian or a new tenant will allow MFDS to put on paper the tenant’s commitment to initiatives that have become important at McGill in the past five years, such as buying fair trade products and using more produce from Macdonald Campus.
“[The owner] was willing to step in, to work with us, that was wonderful […] but we want to put that in the contract right now,” he said. “At the moment it’s verbal; next time it will be more clear this is what we want to see.”
For students, Sinfully Asian’s accessible location is the restaurant’s major strong point.
“It’s easy,” said Robin Patricia-Windchip, U1 Arts. “Its accessible if I want to go to class or the library.”
However, other students complained of its lack of variety and its prices.
“The food can be repetitive because I eat there a lot,” said Marion Furio Lannoy, U2 Managment.“It’s expensive for what it is, for the quality, and it’s not open long enough.”
If Sinfully Asian were to leave, Lannoy did not think that Chipotle is the right option, but rather a healthier alternative.
“Not Chipotle, I honestly find it is too specific, and not enough variety,” Lannoy said. “Something very easy, with more salads. I would like to see more salads at Sinfully Asian [too].”
—Additional reporting by Erica Friesen