Coffeehouse Reduces Operating Hours
Declining sales have forced the Student Center Coffeehouse, formerly open 24 hours, to reduce its hours of operation.
The Coffeehouse reopened for the year this Monday on its new schedule, 4:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. Monday through Friday and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The reduction in hours marks the end of a long tradition of round-the-clock service for the Coffeehouse. Victoria Davis ’04, general manager of the Coffeehouse, said that the Coffeehouse has been open 24 hours since it first opened its doors in the 1970s.
Back then, however, the Coffeehouse was one of the only food vendors in the Student Center. In recent years, new stores and restaurants have increasingly hurt the student-run establishment’s business. “The admins were definitely noticing,” Davis said.
Administrators in the Campus Activities Complex, which runs the Coffeehouse, decided this summer to reduce its hours because it was in debt. “Over all these years, we’ve really upgraded the other offerings in the building,” said Peter Cummings, assistant director of the Campus Activities Complex.
Cummings said that the other stores, while benefiting the student population as a whole, have made it impractical for the Coffeehouse to remain open 24 hours. “It’s the competition,” Cummings said. “Everyone sells coffee.”
The new operating schedule reflects those times when the Coffeehouse has seen the most business. Last summer, as Davis and administrators examined sales records from recent years, they concluded that the daytime shifts were “the big losers.” From 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., for instance, the Coffeehouse would typically sell only 15 dollars worth of food and drinks.
“After 6:00 p.m., though, it really picks up,” Davis said.
Customers unfazed by change
The reduction in hours did not seem to affect many of the Coffeehouse Coffs regular customers.
“I usually don’t come here during the day because I have class,” said Nina Kshetry ’04.
“I never came during the day or past 4 a.m.,” said Jay Cameron ’05. “That Coffs kind of crazy.”
Coffeehouse staff members were initially disappointed to hear about the decline in hours. However, they have generally accepted the reasoning behind the decision.
“I think it’s just a smart business decision that needs to be made to preserve the Coffeehouse,” Davis said.
Coffeehouse cashier Briar A. Lowe ’05 said, “I was glad that we were opening at all.” Lowe also said that staffing the Coffeehouse around-the-clock occasionally proved difficult last year. The number of staff has been cut approximately in half due to the reduced hours, from 30 last year to about 15 now.
“I think we have a more committed team now,” Lowe said.
Competition hurts business
In addition to the other food-selling establishments in the Student Center, the Coffeehouse also saw competition from Transitions lounge, a furnished public space that was open 24 hours last year. The first-floor space was used by many as a late-night study area, though this year it houses billiard tables and arcade games.
The controversial renovations to the Coffeehouse in 2000 could also have had a negative effect on the popularity of the Coffeehouse. The modern decor and layout may have alienated some traditional late-night regulars.
“I definitely think we lost some of our customer base,” Davis said, “but looking at the statistics, the decline started before the renovations.”
Coffeehouse managers and the administration are open to the possibility of re-expanding hours in the future if the new schedule proves successful.
Cummings, who hopes that the Coffeehouse will at least break even financially, said the CAC would consider an expansion in service if the Coffeehouse were to turn a profit.
Davis was optimistic about the possibility of expanding service and hours. “I’d say it’s very likely,” Davis said. “If students support us, we’ll extend our hours.”
Coffeehouse has new vision
In order to increase sales, Coffeehouse managers are planning some changes to the menu, adapting it to the establishment’s now entirely nocturnal operation. In addition to its current line of beverages, candy, pastries, and microwaveable entrees, the Coffeehouse will begin selling bagels from Alpine Bagel Cafe, a new eatery on the first floor of the Student Center.
Accompanying the new food offerings will be more performance events such as poetry readings and concerts. Because students now use the Coffeehouse primarily as a study space, Cummings believes that the performance space and lounge areas in the Coffeehouse are currently under-utilized. He hopes that more events will draw another sector of the student population to the Coffeehouse, increasing its overall use.
“That space is prime real estate. We really haven’t exploited that as much as we could,” Cummings said.