Pause pizza price hike cooks up controversy

The Pause, which accepts both cash and Ole Dollars, raised the price of a large pizza from $8 to $9 this year.

When students returned to the Hill this fall eager to revisit their favorite on-campus pizza place, the Pause Kitchen, many were surprised to see unexpected price increases in their favorite items.

The Pause is a branch of Student Government Association SGA, though it largely functions as an independent organization. The Pause’s profile on the SGA Web site,, describes the venture as “a student-run event space [that] offers several event venues, a study area, a pool and sports lounge and a kitchen offering a full menu including our famous pizza and shakes.”

The Lion’s Pause Kitchen is an entirely student-run and student-managed enterprise. It offers a menu of popular snacks and dinner items including quesadillas, cookies, chicken fingers, pizza bagels and the timeless campus favorite: Pause pizza.

The Pause Kitchen is open during the academic year from 10:30 a.m. until midnight Sunday through Thursday and from 10:30 a.m. until 2:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Free delivery is offered to students living in campus residence halls.

When the Pause Kitchen opened for business at the beginning of the current academic year, many students quickly noted slight increases in the prices of most of their favorite items. A large one- or two-topping pizza, for instance, one of the Pause’s most popular items, saw an increase in price from $8 to $9. A few prices remained unchanged. A small pizza, for instance, is still $6.

Andrew O’Neill ’15 and Nathan Hartwig ’15 serve as co-coordinators of the Pause for the 2014-2015 academic year. O’Neill and Hartwig hire, train and supervise the Pause executive staff. O’Neill served as a kitchen co-manager of the Pause last year, and he says it was then that he first became aware of the price issues. O’Neill said that he and Hartwig, with input from Director of Student Activities Kris Vatter, decided prices had to be raised.

“We tasked our newly-hired kitchen managers and kitchen purchaser with assessing which items should receive a price increase and how much that should be,” O’Neill said. “After long thought and a lot of math, we arrived at the decision that we did. Our goal was to ensure that we were making a profit, while attempting to keep our items as affordable as possible for our customers.” While some customers were disgruntled, Pause executives stand by the changes, citing rising food costs.

“The cost of all of our ingredients has risen since prices were last set seven years ago,” O’Neill said. “Specifically, the cost of cheese has more than tripled and the cost of dough has about doubled.” Indeed, the Pause is not the only pizza joint that has been forced to raise its prices due to rising food costs.

According to a Feb. 5 article from entitled “Higher prices for pizza? Blame cheese,” cheese is generally the costliest ingredient for pizza restaurants, making up about 35 to 40 percent of total food costs.

The article further notes that the “price of mozzarella cheese is up about 16 percent since the beginning of December [2013], and the price of cheddar cheese has jumped about 25 percent.”

The St. Olaf bubble is not immune to inflation, either. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, $8 in 2007 has the same buying power as $9.18 has today.

“The Pause Kitchen is the only area of the Pause that makes money,” O’Neill said. “This means that apart from the relatively small amount of money we get from SGA for startup costs, all of our purchases including food, equipment repairs, new tech equipment, facilities improvements, employee training and anything else needs to come from kitchen profit.”

O’Neill said he wants students to know that their input is always welcome, whether it has to do with food prices or any other Pause-related concern.

“If you ever have any comments, concerns, questions or ideas, please feel free to post them on the suggestion board, contact anyone on the Pause Executive Team, or just stop by the Pause Office to talk to one of us,” he urged. “We have had reports of people becoming upset with our cashiers about price differences, and we want to clarify that they had nothing to do with that decision and have little power to do anything about it.”

Any change on campus, especially when it involves pizza, is rarely met with a wholehearted embrace. As the academic year continues though, students will undoubtedly find a new campus cause to tackle, and $2 pizza bagels will become a distant memory.