The financial pressure on students at Wits will not come from what they eat this year, if buying exclusively from on-campus restaurants.

Food outlets at Wits University have maintained 2022’s prices despite a 12,4% increase in the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages over the last year, as noted by the Stats SA Consumer Price Index (CPI) report , released in January 2023. Kara Nichha’s, on Wits’ East campus sells various Indian foods, including samosas at R4.00 and a soya burger at R20.00. It remains one of the most affordable places to grab a meal on campus.

The latest Food Basket Price Monthly Report by the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) shows that the price of onions, an ingredient in some samosas, increased by 47% while sunflower oil prices increased by 28.1% year-on-year. Manager, Malvina Mogano, said that the restaurant’s strategy to keep prices low includes using soy instead of meat.

Generous servings keep students coming back to Kara Nicha’s. Photo: Mpho Hlakudi
A customer getting their daily fix. Photo: Mpho Hlakudi

Kutlwano Serame, a regular customer, said, “Kara Nichha’s is a good place for [buying food], especially when you want to introduce first years that are struggling financially, especially in terms of having access to food because you can literally come here for R20.00 and you’re sorted for lunch.”

At Wethu Coffee Shop, in Solomon Mahlangu House, directly sourcing from farms is how costs are kept low said café manager, Valentine Nomvuyo.

The coffee bar is open weekly from 7am to 5pm and serves coffee and hot meals. Food prices range from R15.00 for a date and raisin muffin to R55.00 for a lunch meal. Nomvuyo said their breakfast combo special, the americano coffee and breakfast wrap, which costs R48.50, is among their best-selling items.

However, according to the NAMC study, the price of white bread, the main ingredient of their toasted sandwich, has increased by 20,4% year-on-year. Thando Gasa, a regular customer at Wethu Coffee shop, said, “They have really nice wraps, and they are affordable.”

But Jimmy’s Varsity, with outlets on East and West campuses, has announced that their prices will go up in the middle of February. The eatery sells various Halaal foods, from their Original Kota at R19.00 to a Hot Chicks family meal at R199.

The restaurant’s West Campus manager, Sandile Simango, said they are forced to raise menu prices because of skyrocketing costs from their suppliers. “Prices are getting higher and [inflation] is rising, making it harder to make a profit,” said Simango.

Lauretta Masiya, an employee at Jimmy’s, said that they have been told to “watch” portion sizes when orders are prepared, in an effort to remain profitable. “It’s not going well because customers tend to complain a lot… and we want the customer to be happy [but] at the same time, we also want the boss to be happy. It’s very challenging,” said Masiya. Unfortunately, the Bureau for Food and Agriculture Policy (BFAP)’s latest food inflation brief suggests that food prices could rise even higher, which may force many more campus eateries to raise their prices.

FEATURED IMAGE: A barrister prepares coffee for a customer at Wethu Coffee Shop. Photo: Mpho Hlakudi