Shuttered for much of the pandemic, Harvard’s House grilles — once staples of student life — are slowly making a comeback.
Since the start of the fall semester, Quincy Grille, Dunster Grille, and Quad Grille have all started taking orders again. Student grille managers — the force behind their return — are responsible for creating new menus, setting prices, hiring staff, and marketing to underclassmen without knowledge of the eateries’ pre-pandemic significance.
House grilles are entirely student-run, leaving much of their operations and finances to the discretion of student managers. The Crimson interviewed student managers at the three reopened grilles about the logistics of their work and challenges ahead.
Each of Quincy Grille’s three student managers receives 20 percent of the grille’s net profits, calculated after the University allocates roughly 4 percent fee to cover expenses, according to manager Max C. Serrano-Wu ’22-’23. The remaining percentage of profit is paid to house administrators, he added.
Managers and staff at the Quad Grille all receive an hourly wage and no additional share of the profit or tips, according to grille manager Jane Y. Rhee ’23.
Dunster Grille allocates any end-of-year profits to a savings account for “new equipment, equipment repair, and general grille upgrades,” per student manager Jacob R. Jimenez ’23-’24.
“There was a lot of revenue at the very end of [last] semester, when everyone was trying to blow all their BoardPlus at grilles,” Jimenez said. “So we did make a profit last year, but all of that money goes into a grille savings account that we use for repairs — for example, if the cooler breaks.”
Jimenez added that Dunster Grille does not have a large profit margin.
“To my knowledge, all the student grilles don’t run at super profitable rates,” he added. “There’s a lot of startup costs — so, starting the grille every year — because you have to pay for the Crimson Cash machine.”
Grille managers said the grilles faced challenges in reopening on a campus where only one College class was here to see the business run before Covid-19.
Serrano-Wu said the pandemic resulted in a loss of “historical knowledge” among both the Quincy Grille employees and the customers.
“The main problem in terms of getting staff is that people haven’t done this job before,” Quincy Grille manager Gabriel E. Lopez-Garrido ’23 said.
Jimenez, the sole student manager at Dunster Grille, said the restaurant’s reopening earlier this year benefited from the wisdom of a manager who had worked in the grille before the pandemic.
“Dunster was lucky to have a manager who served before Covid still there after Covid to get things back rolling,” Jimenez said. “But we’re still seeing some of the aftershocks of Covid.”
Grilles located at Winthrop House and Eliot House have remained shuttered so far.
Serrano-Wu said many freshmen, sophomores, and juniors do not even know about the grilles.
“We’ve been trying to get a lot of people to come here for the grille, learn about BoardPlus,” Serrano-Wu said.
“It’s honestly a shame because, obviously, it’s a student-run grill, so the purpose of the grille is just to reach out to as many students as possible,” Lopez-Garrido said.
— Staff writer Audrey M. Apollon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Staff writer Dekyi T. Tsotsong can be reached at email@example.com.