Coop Fountain Reduces Deficit, Reviews Cost Cuts

After raising its prices at the start of the fall 2012 semester, the Coop Fountain has reduced its deficit by an estimated $10,000 to $15,000. The deficit at the end of the spring 2012 semester was $67,000.

“Considering that it’s only been 11 weeks since we made the changes, I think our efforts have been going well,” said Chris Waugh, Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Smith Campus Center (SCC).

According to an e-mail Waugh sent to TSL, the Coop Store finished the 2011-2012 fiscal year with a marginal profit, while the Fountain had a deficit because it is more expensive to operate. The Fountain is coming closer to breaking even, but further changes still need to be implemented in order to reach that goal.

“We’re going in the right direction,” said Brenda Schmit, Manager of Retail Services for the SCC. “We won’t know exactly how much money we’ve saved until we close out the books in July, but we’re doing better.”

In October 2012, Laura Berrie was hired as Schmit’s assistant. Berrie has been in the restaurant industry for 33 years and has spent the last 13 years working at Panera Bread, which Schmit called “ideal experience” for Berrie’s current position.

“Laura was an absolute find,” Waugh said. “She brings with her so much experience in restaurant management, and she has a demonstrated track record of opening restaurants, hiring staff and training them, and identifying ways to minimize cost.”

Berrie spent much of the fall semester examining how the Coop Fountain does its business and looking closely at its records. The beginning of the new semester has been a time for implementing changes focused on reducing the deficit.

“We’re just trying to be more efficient about everything,” Coop Fountain Manager Emma Rottenborn PO ’15 said.

One of Berrie’s main focuses is reducing labor costs, which is the most expensive part of running the Fountain.

This semester, labor will be spread more evenly throughout the day by assigning side work at each shift. Students have started performing side work tasks during slow periods when there aren’t any orders to take.

“The managers are assigning a lot more prep work, like making egg salad, so that we’re always getting things done and so that we need fewer people during the busy times because all of the prep work is done,” Rottenborn said.

Berrie said this change prevents workers from having to rush to do prep work at the beginning of each shift.

“When the next shift walks in, it’s just like the Fountain was just opened,” Berrie said. “Everything’s in place.”

Berrie also has been making tweaks in the way that food is prepared. In the past, student managers have sliced the onions, lettuce, meats, and cheeses used by the Coop Fountain. However, Berrie found that because of the labor involved in the slicing process, it is cheaper to buy pre-sliced food.

“The cost difference is beneficial in the long run because we’re taking the cost of labor out,” Berrie said.

In addition, student employees are using scoops for preparing egg and tuna salad sandwiches rather than just spreading the salad on directly, ensuring consistency and cost effectiveness.

Other changes include rearranging sandwich stations to reduce the amount of food dropped on the floor, charging 15 cents for to-go cups if faculty and staff don’t bring their own cups for their free coffee, and eliminating the 50 percent off discount that employees enjoyed in the past.

Berrie and Schmit have also been working to improve customer service in order to attract more people to the Coop Fountain.

“We want to be the center of all the colleges,” Schmit said.

Waugh said that the goal is not to make a significant profit, but to break even or make a marginal profit. He said that he predicts that this goal is attainable in the near future.

“We’re getting there,” said Waugh. “It’s just the way that it was run before was unsustainable.”

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