Photo Credits: LUIS LOPEZ / AGGIE
University marketing regulations prevent restaurant from reaching full potential
The Gunrock, one of UC Davis’s on-campus restaurants, reopened its alcohol service on January 7. Keith Luke, the manager of on-campus retail restaurants, reflected on Winter Quarter 2019 and the potential of the restaurant.
“Definitely, [the reintroduction of alcohol] changed the vibe,” Luke said. “It’s a lot more casual. Before, you’d come in and we had a bar but there was nothing there, so it was kind of awkward. It feels a lot more laid-back now, and I feel like it’s more welcoming.”
Luke said that there was a 32 percent increase in sales between Fall Quarter 2018 and Winter Quarter 2019, when alcohol was reintroduced to the menu. Additionally, the eatery saw almost a 60 percent increase when comparing Spring Quarter 2018 to Winter Quarter 2019.
Management at The Gunrock, however, still feels that sales have yet to reach their potential, blaming this on a lack of awareness within the student body. Marketing regulations get in the way of spreading the word about the restaurant’s new and improved menu, with university policy mandating that The Gunrock staff run any alcohol-related promotions past marketing officials for the school.
“The marketing aspect is a little bit tricky,” Luke said. “We have to be careful because we’re not supposed to, quote on quote, promote drinking […] so we’re using some social media but it has to be very PC, and any social media that we do post has to be approved through campus marketing and that kind of stuff.”
The establishment made it clear, however, it holds no control over what customers may choose to post on their personal social media accounts.
The Gunrock partnered with Capitol Garage, a popular Sacramento-based restaurant, in order to accomplish its goal of reopening the bar. Capitol Garage took over all liquor sales at The Gunrock, ensuring that the university would not have to handle any alcohol-related transactions.
Gia Hellwig, the director of operations for Capitol Garage, also expressed her frustration that The Gunrock’s marketing attempts are not reaching enough students.
“They’ve got alcohol on campus, but I think [the university is] still a little skittish about promoting that because it’s physically located on campus,” Hellwig said. “I think they don’t want people to think that we’re pushing booze onto the students, and I get it, I do. But it’s just like any other restaurant you’d go into anywhere else — it just happens to be specifically located on campus.”
Nonetheless, Hellwig still feels that business has been fair thus far, considering that The Gunrock’s bar has only been open for a little over three months. She expressed her appreciation for Luke, noting that they are able to troubleshoot any problems effectively.
Both Luke and Hellwig noted that the most popular items on their bar’s menu are from local Davis breweries — Dunloe Brewing and Super Owl Brewing.
“It’s always great to get more business, and I’m hoping now that the weather is warmer that’ll get more folks in there to come in, hang out and use the patio space,” Hellwig said. “We’re hoping that the change in the weather will help get more bodies in there.”
Written by: Claire Dodd — firstname.lastname@example.org