The Goodrich coffee bar opened for business last fall. After some initial financial difficulties, it has been doing well this year.
Last year, the coffee bar suffered losses. “We had a lot of start up costs. Whenever you start a business, you’re going to lose money because you invest in things,” said Goodrich coffee bar manager Kim Zelnick ’00. “No one, I think, thought we’d break even.”
“Yes, it was over budget last year, but by no means as much as people thought. Part of the reason it was over budget was startup costs,” agreed Rich Kelley, Student Activities Coordinator.
In fact, the College planned ahead for Goodrich’s start up costs by funding the venture through an open-ended debit account in the Provost’s office.
“The College expects us to run the coffee bar so it breaks even, outside of the operating costs of the building. To deal with that, they started a deficit account knowing there would be start-up costs,” explained Ryan Mayhew ’01, Chair of the Goodrich Committee and former manager of the coffee bar. “The idea is to bring the account back to zero, ultimately.”
“We just sort of close the books with a deficit, knowing it will be paid back,” Associate Provost and Budget Director Shaun Buckler said. “It’s not college money at all. It’s not coming out of the money of faculty or students.”
According to Buckler, the Provost approved the deficit spending because of the unique arrangement in Goodrich. “The College Council and the students wanted Goodrich to be a student-run organization. It is not a normal procedure, but this is something we did for them,” Buckler said.
Zelnick said the coffee bar has five years to pay off its deficit. With business improving this fall, she is optimistic that it can do so.
“In terms of overall fall sales, we’re in the black,” Zelnick said. Zelnick cited better advertising, an expanded menu and more accurate pricing as sources of the coffee bar’s success. “We’re not selling anything at a loss anymore,” she said.
The new breakfast points option in Goodrich has also increased sales. “Breakfast points have been a success, and we’re happy about that,” Zelnick said.
Kelley explained that the money actually goes to Dining Services, which pays Goodrich for its supplies, but breakfast points have still drawn new customers.
“Otherwise, we’re just encouraging use of the space,” Zelnick said.
“We’ve been doing a lot better with sales and with having people there,” said Goodrich employee and member of the Goodrich Committee Jessica Paar ’02. “I guess the group had financial difficulties last year, but we’re doing better this year,” she said.
Kelley agreed. “I knew that there were going to be logistical problems to work out, and for the most part, there have been. It really takes a year to a year and a half to figure out what students like and their prices,” he said, mentioning that the managers tried several different kinds of bagels and cookies before settling on their regular menu items.
With Goodrich’s menu now set, Kelley said sales have increased greatly. For example, the coffee bar orders 21 dozen Hot Tomatoes bagels every two days this year, while it only ordered five to ten dozen last year.
“It opened the middle of September, and it’s been breaking even the entire year,” Kelley said.
Paar credited the managers, Zelnick and Tory Nims ’00, with Goodrich’s improvement. “Being on the committee, I know there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that people don’t understand. I think all of the managers do a good job at listening to the suggestions.”
Kelley acknowledged the hard work of the managers, but said the expansion of the coffee bar has been limited by constraints on student time.
“There’s definitely a lot more that we can do, but the problem is that the coffee bar managers are over-extended,” Kelley said, mentioning their 40-60 hour workweeks. “Unless other students are willing to volunteer time to work there, there’s not much we can do.”
Kelley said he has tried to assist the managers by e-mailing the student body about events there. He is also working on a brochure about the coffee bar.
In the meantime, Kelley is satisfied with how things are going. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s filling the use it was designed for,” he said. “I’m the link between the college and the students, and they both seem to be pleased.”