If you have walked into TwelvEighty or Bridges Café since school started, you might have noticed some significant changes from last year. Both campus restaurants have introduced new menu items, seeking to expand the types of foods offered and introduce fresh takes on typical campus foods.

TwelvEighty, the bar and grill situated in the basement of the student centre, is known for its affordable restaurant-quality foods and campus nightlife events. TwelvEighty usually swaps six or seven menu items at the beginning of each year. This year, however, 16 items were added.

“This is the first time we have majorly renovated the menu for about five years,” said food and beverage manager Richard Haja. “So this year we did quite a large revamp.”

The restaurant held focus groups before the year began to test out new items on potential customers.

Haja is particularly excited about the addition of vegetarian bowls, which consist of a mix of vegetables to which a variety of protein options, such as chicken or tofu, can be added. According to Haja, these have garnered a very positive student response thus far.

“It’s kind of on trend right now,” said Haja. “The bowls themselves are all in the $6.99 range. That’s one of the cheapest values on campus because it alone as a vegetarian option in some cases is by far the cheapest you’ll find around.”

Other new items include various desserts, a jerk chicken club wrap and macaroni and cheese balls. TwelvEighty has been working to add more vegetarian, halal and gluten-free options. Haja says that the ethnic diversity of McMaster has inspired the chefs to appeal to a wider variety of tastes and cultures.

“It’s not just the individual’s ethnicity,” said Haja. “It’s that people are traveling and people are experiencing new tastes and new cultures, so they’re almost expecting those flavours to be in their everyday life now.”

Along with a culinary revamp, TwelvEighty has undergone a physical transformation. In addition to opening The Grind last year, TwelvEighty renovated its floor. It is also considering the addition of seating spaces.

Like TwelvEighty, Bridges Café has also recently redesigned its menu, adding ten new options for customers this year.

Currently, Bridges Café is the only campus restaurant that exclusively serves vegetarian and vegan options. The new items include vegan sloppy joes, vegan pad thai and crispy avocado halves.

Director of McMaster Hospitality Services Chris Roberts said that the menu changes were made with the growing diversity of McMaster in mind.

Bridges is also experiencing its fifteenth anniversary in Jan. 2019. To celebrate the milestone, the café is adding highlights from the past fifteen years back to its menu.

Ultimately, Roberts is pleased with the changes. Bridges had record sales during opening week and Roberts says that student feedback on the rebranding has been positive.

Bridges remains committed to providing quality vegetarian and vegan food for many on campus at the same standard prices. With these new changes, Roberts hopes that even more students, particularly non-vegetarians, will come in for a meal.

“We hope the new branding and menu will attract a new customer base, one that has not traditionally eaten plant-based foods,” said Roberts. “We want to encourage a healthier, more nutritious diet for students. You no longer have to be a vegetarian to enjoy plant-based foods. It’s a lifestyle choice now.”

As students have been getting settled in to the rhythm of classes, TwelvEighty and Bridges have been spicing things up by offering fresh foods and environments for Mac students.

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