Posted September 22, 2013 by Cooper Point Journal in News

Sem II Cafe Replaced by Einstein Bros. Bagels

For the first time in its 44-year history, The Evergreen State College will have a brand-name licensed store, Einstein Brothers Bagels. The bagel joint will be replacing the Seminar II (Sem II) Café plans to be open on September 30.

“The perpetual problem with the Seminar II Café is that it was a great little coffee shop, but we are trying to use it as a place we could get more food,” said Sharon Goodman, director of Residential and Dining services.

The Sem II Café, which used to be located on the bottom floor building B, has been on campus since 2004. The college had hoped that the café would be an option for evening and weekend students to grab a quick bite at, but it was unfeasible to keep the café open late. “The Sem II café has not been doing well financially,” Goodman commented. “People have not been going there for a while, so we couldn’t keep the Sem II café open past 8. Just to get coffee? That’s all you could get at the Sem II café. That’s not what students are thinking.”

Aramark, Evergreen’s current food contractor, put forward their request to bring in a licensed store during their bid for the college’s food contract in spring quarter of last year. Goodman, hesitant to bring a licensed store to Evergreen, requested that Aramark send out a student survey, asking what foods and brands students deem acceptable.

The survey required students to rate different brands and franchises from 0 to 4, with 0 being the least acceptable brand, and 4 being the most acceptable. 399 students responded to the survey.

The top rated brands, in order, was Batdorf and Bronsen Coffee Roasters, Subway, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and Einstein Bros. Bagels. Between Einstein Bros. Bagels and Bagel Brothers, a local bagel shop off of Cooper Point Road, “Einstein’s did very well as a brand, and Bagel Brothers did not,” said Goodman. Bagel Brothers did not make the top ten acceptable brands.

Katherine Striggow, the food service director of Aramark on campus, said that, “Aramark was looking for a three meal solution, for all three meals, and Einstein has that.”  Striggow hopes that Einstein will be more successful than the Sem II café in attracting students with different breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late-night food options. Although Einstein will control the menu and the prices, Aramark will be running the Einstein store. Employees that worked in the Sem II Café will continue to work in the new venue.

Franchise Acceptability on Campus

“We got a lot of student opinion and feedback during [the food contract] request for proposals last year,” said outgoing Geoduck Student Union Vice President Tyler Langenbrunner, who was also a Food Committee member, working on the RFP for last year’s bid for a food contract. “We chose a contract that was fair, efficient, and has a bunch of provisions for accountability. Some people may explode when you mention chains, but most students will see these new options and better deals and use them.”

During the process of deciding whether to bring Einstein onto campus, Goodman turned to Kurt Willis, the Director of University Residences at Western Washington University (WWU). WWU signed a food contract with Aramark in 2011. Willis recalled Western’s attitude towards licensed stores back in the 80s, when he attended the college. He said,“There was no clamoring for it. Students weren’t receptive. Not adverse, just not receptive.”

Thirty years later, WWU has a Starbucks, Panda Express, two Subways, and several Aramark-brand food options on campus. Willis speculated that “it’s a small hop to go from Aramark to franchises on campus,” which may be why students are less averse to brand-name licensed stores on campus today, both at WWU and Evergreen.

Willis also commented on the success of the brand, and how it could affect students opinion. “You have to figure out the culture of the school. Chic-fil-A would not work at Evergreen,” he said. Chic-fil-A was a brand that was rated the least acceptable by Evergreen students in the student survey last year.

Goodman believes that there are several reasons why a licensed store would be acceptable on campus now, as opposed to the 70s and 80s. “I think the difference is that it’s not a huge brand, and it’s about choice and access. If students don’t want to eat there, they don’t have to eat there. I also think that with some of the brands, students know that we have some control [over having local and sustainable foods].”

“When I advertised this, I thought I was going to get some nasty emails. I was hesitant to try out a chain store, because I am an advocate of local foods. If it’s a big flop, the college owns the space, and we can change it up to something else,” Goodman concluded.

By Ray Still