Author: Cordelia Kenney
After receiving flak from students over a lack of drip coffee for three consecutive days two weeks ago, the Green Bean appears to be running normally again. The entirely student-run coffee shop, which opened not quite two years ago in October of 2009, has transitioned to new and improved products over the course of the past two weeks, including a new coffee vendor and Orangina, as well as new iced teas and smoothies.
Roxy Laufer (senior), the Programming and Customer Experience Manager, explained that the students in charge of the Green Bean found from a survey conducted at the end of last semester that a majority of customers were dissatisfied with the quality of the coffee. “The students would like to support us, but the coffee was not as good as it could be,” Laufer said. “Grounds of Change, our previous vendor, went well with our mission [to be environmentally conscious], but we were not necessarily thinking about quality when we chose it.”
Hoping to improve, the Green Bean’s six student managers met with multiple vendors, sampling over 15 different kinds of coffee. “Overall, we were looking for quality, green initiative and price, but especially quality,” Laufer said. After the managers ranked every vendor, they decided to switch to Caribbean Coffee several months ago. Since they made a final decision, the six students spent hours communicating with the new vendor and trying to finalize paperwork. Once everything finally went through, legal issues again got in the way.
Leading up to the three-day absence of coffee, the managers of the Green Bean believed that any outstanding issues with the vendor were settled. “The new vendor was supposed to buy the rest of our old vendor’s coffee and replace it with his, but the paperwork did not come in on time. Without the legal paperwork, we can’t sell the coffee for liability and insurance reasons,” Laufer said. “We have to order in advance; we ordered enough to last us through the weekend because the paperwork was supposed to get in. We didn’t have control over it at that point.”
But as Elena Robertson (sophomore) explained, the incident was not as remarkable for many students. “It was definitely irritating, but it’s not like it ruined my life,” Robertson said. “I can just get coffee [somewhere else on campus].”
Although students disagree about whether the new brand of coffee is great quality, most concur that it tastes noticeably different than the old brand. “It’s better than the old one, but before it was okay, too,” Josh Wodka (first-year) said.
Robertson, a more frequent coffee drinker, loves the new taste. “It’s a thousand times better than the old one. It just tastes and smells better,” she said. “Before it wasn’t as smooth, it wasn’t as good but now it’s much better.”
Receding this coffee-less couple of days, the Green Bean has had other issues as well, including a malfunctioning espresso machine and faulty cups. Recently, coffee lovers experienced heartbreak at the counter when they discovered that espresso drinks were unavailable.
“What happened was the electrical fuse went out, so we had to call the particular company to come fix it, but there’s only one [representative] in Los Angeles,” Laufer said.
Students who like the Green Bean but are not necessarily coffee fanatics found that issues with the espresso machine were often the only complaint they had. “I’ve never had a problem with the Green Bean other than the espresso machine,” said Wodka.
Then there were the melting cups. According to Laufer, the Green Bean previously used the same cups as the Marketplace. The crucial difference, though, was a matter of twenty degrees. “The water we use for our coffee and tea is heated to 200 degrees to ensure the fullest tasting coffee, but the Marketplace is only 180 degrees,” Laufer said.
The relatively small temperature difference was apparently enough to melt the containers. But students who actually encountered melting cups are hard to find. “I usually bring my own cup, so I never had the melting problem,” Robertson said. Wodka agreed that he had never heard of anyone with that problem. With new cups now in use, the memory of melting cups largely has faded.
Although these incidents are laughable to some and irritating to many, unforeseen problems are bound to occur during a business’ start-up period, which can range considerably. An article published on businessweek.com, which profiled similar student-run cafes and small businesses on college campuses, found that the University of Colorado’s Trep Cafe did not fully function until after two years of building remodeling and working with a small-scale coffee cart.
“It’s frustrating because it looked bad on us,” Laufer said. “We’re dealing with machines that we really know nothing about. It’s a process of learning, and we figure out how to make the best of it.” Given that the Green Bean is only in its second year, moreover, it has made substantial progress overall. “Last year we were constantly running out of things and things were breaking. This year it’s a lot smoother,” Laufer said.
Robertson agrees: “The staff is a lot better at getting drinks out faster, especially compared to last spring, [when they first opened].”
Barring technical complications, moreover, the Green Bean offers a sought-after salary for its baristas. With over 70 applications submitted for positions next semester, students clearly appreciate its value as an employment opportunity. “It’s the highest paid job on campus, and you don’t need work study to get it,” Laufer said.
Excluding any recent negative feedback, moreover, business is prospering. With around 800-900 transactions on an average Monday, its busiest day, the Green Bean continues to attract a large contingency of the campus. “Its environment is very conducive to socialization and it’s a good place to get coffee,” Wodka said. “It’s comfy, they have great food, and it’s a nice break from the library.”
In general, the atmosphere of the Green Bean often supersedes its occasional technical mishaps. “The Green Bean is my favorite place on campus,” Robertson continued. “This is my favorite place to get coffee.”
“As we evolve, we’re always looking for what we can do better,” Laufer said. With every manager graduating this May, Laufer says she hopes that the new students in charge will continue to help the Green Bean grow. “Hopefully, they will build off of what we’ve already done and pick up what we’ve learned,” she said. “I hope it stays a central part of campus, and I hope we can expand.”
Laufer hopes that anyone who has given up on the Green Bean will decide to give it a second chance. “In the future, we could communicate better so people don’t think that it was a lack of planning or poor management,” Laufer said.
Even with a brand new management board next semester, the Green Bean is likely to continue on its upward path. “They’ll probably get more efficient because they have more experience under their belts,” Robertson said. “[The Green Bean is] a very central meeting place at this point. It’s really integral for [a student’s] experience at Oxy.”
This article has been archived, for more requests please contact us via the support system.