Coop Fountain and Store Adjust After Big Deficit

After ending the 2011-2012 school year with a $67,000 deficit, Pomona College’s Coop Fountain and Coop Store are making some big changes for the new semester: higher prices, different hours and new staff policies.

“We’re not trying to make a huge profit,” said Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Smith Campus Center (SCC) Chris Waugh. “We just want to break even so that we don’t have to tap into the ASPC reserves.”

The store and restaurant together have not made a profit in five years. Five years ago, Pomona stopped paying the wages of Coop employees, meaning that workers’ incomes come directly from store and restaurant revenue.

Now, labor is the most expensive part of running the store and the restaurant.

Waugh said that one of the missions of the Coop Fountain is to provide students with a low-cost alternative to campus dining. However, the establishment’s financial struggles have left the administration with little choice but to raise the price of the food, said Manager of Retail Services for the SCC Brenda Schmit.

“We’ve been losing money for the last five years, so we need to make some moves,” Schmit said.

Over the summer, Schmit compared the menus of local restaurants serving food similar to the Coop Fountain’s offerings to ensure that the Coop’s prices were reasonable without being drastically cheaper than other establishments.

Schmit said that in the past, “you could get a hamburger for less than four dollars [at the Coop]. If you go to the competition, they’re not selling it at those prices.”

“I wanted to make sure our prices were in the ballpark,” she said.

Even though raising prices will be a large factor in the administration’s plan to reduce the Coop Fountain’s deficit, it is not the only part of the proposed solution.

The Coop Store is now open for fewer hours, closing at 10 p.m. most nights rather than midnight. A shift has been cut from the Coop Fountain, meaning that there will be fewer employees at 5 p.m., one of the restaurant’s slowest times.

Prices were raised and shifts were cut last year, too, but Schmit said the restaurant and store can still “tighten the ship a bit.” 

Last year, some employees at the Coop Fountain reportedly ate food during their shifts and did not pay the half-off price required of employees.

“It’s easy to say, if you’re working in a kitchen, ‘I’m hungry, I haven’t eaten, so I can cook myself some food,’” said Emma Rottenborn PO ’15, one of the managers of the Coop Fountain. “But this is your job, not your kitchen.”

Employees would eat food while they were cooking it, or purposely make too much of a milkshake or fry too many curly fries and save the leftovers for themselves.

“It would really add up,” said Cristina Salvador PO ’15, another Coop Fountain manager. “It was probably $10 a person per shift.”

This year, employees do not get a discount of any kind, a change designed to make it easier to keep track of employees who are breaking the rules.

Schmit said that the Coop Fountain has not decreased the quality of the food or the type of food it serves to reduce costs. The Fountain and the Store also have about the same number of employees as they did last year.

“To me, the mission of the Coop is to provide resumé-worthy experience for students,” Schmit said.

Correction: A version of this article appeared in print under the headline, “Coop Fountain Raises Prices, Cuts Hours.” The Coop Fountain’s regular hours this semester will be the same as last semester, although the Coop Store’s hours have been reduced. We regret this error.

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