ASUCD Coffee House customers will need to adjust how they get their lunch next year. The Coffee House will be closing to renovate its facilities June 2009 until summer 2010.
Customers need not panic; the Coffee House has several options to continue serving food and make the adjustment period less jarring. Some ideas include using the Aggie Student Store as a grab-and-go outlet, turning the former ASUCD post office into a deli sandwich outlet, renting a mobile kitchen and opening an outdoor grill.
“We want to keep our loyal customer base,” said food service director Sharon Coulson. “We want to keep the essence of the Coffee House. We know it’s not just a destination for some people – it is a social place some people have an emotional connection to.”
Junior political science major Bonnie Shu is among the 7,000 customers flowing through the Coffee House each week.
“[The Coffee House offers] relatively cheap food and a good studying place,” Shu said. “It’s friendly and a good place to meet friends and talk.”
The greatest challenge during the Coffee House renovation will be the limited space availability. Without a main kitchen to work from, menus have to be created that will work within the confinements of a mobile kitchen and outside grill.
“We will try to create as many menus as we can, but we have limited space…. We are a business and we want to be successful; it’s going to be very challenging,” Coulson said.
Senior history major Jennielynn Holmes is on the Coffee House renovation committee and has been active in working to address customer and employment worries.
“A big concern is job security. We have about 200 employees, and we will try to hire as many people as possible next year, but we probably will not do as big a hiring process in the fall,” she said.
The Coffee House will try to keep as many current employees at the time of the June 2009 closing for the following year as possible.
Currently, the Coffee House is separated into several sections: the bakery and espresso area sits in between the tex mex grill, pizza, and hot food line area and the larger deli, bagel, salad and pho bar section.
The new Coffee House will be expanded to 26,665 square-feet and allow customers a larger, more attractive sitting area and better access to food. The open patio across from the bagel line will open up with more seating and include an overhang.
The bakery and espresso area will be located in the public seating space while pizza and pasta will be served in one section and all other food will be available in another general location. All cash registers will operate at the end of the general food service area.
Coulson explained the new Coffee House will benefit both customers and employees.
“First, it will allow people to come in and have all the food in one area, and there will be ease of navigating the Coffee House,” she said. “The seating will be together, and it will be more vibrant with the new tables and chairs. Second, having all the food in one area makes it easier to manage and tell our story better here at the Coffee House. All our food is student-made from scratch, and customers can see us prepare some of the food with the new layout.”
Rebuilding plans have been in motion since the Coffee House renovation campus fee referendum was passed in 2002 by ASUCD.
“It’s a long process, and it takes a lot of money,” said ASUCD Controller Paul Harms.
“Money doesn’t go just into the building process, it goes into the architecture and interior designing,” said Harms, a junior managerial economics major. “The complexity of the Coffee House renovation needs years of planning, and we’re 95 percent done with planning.”
With a full year left before construction begins, the Coffee House management and renovation team is open to suggestions to keep customers satisfied during the renovation process. Interested parties can leave their suggestions in the suggestion box located next to the piano outside the main Coffee House.
“The Coffee House is like a family. It’s a huge home base, a huge culture, and a lifestyle. We are trying to make it as close as possible to the atmosphere now and disperse new ideas,” Holmes said.
WENDY WANG can be reached at email@example.com.XXX