This month, for the first time, the on-campus Starbucks was open on a Sunday. The coffee shop will remain open to students on Sunday for the duration of the semester. This decision followed a change in Starbucks’ schedule made just last year, where afternoon weekday hours, Monday through Thursday, were extended from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
That change, implemented at the beginning of the 2014 fall semester, was likely influenced by several factors.
In the spring of 2014, SGA Senators Josh Massey and Sarah Lilly created a ProveIt project titled “Sunday Starbucks,” which aimed to “work with Chartwells to open the campus Starbucks … on Sundays to provide students with, not only the delicious brew of a local Starbucks, but also another warm study space on campus.”
According to Lilly and Massey, “we thought that opening up Starbucks on Sunday would prove to Chartwells that they can generate significant revenue on the weekends, and we hoped this realization might result in them deciding to open up more dining options on the weekend.”
In the same way that a business needs to fulfill a demand in order to maintain a substantial consumer base, ProveIt projects typically serve to satisfy a prevalent need on campus.
With this in mind, Lilly and Massey believed “the idea would work because we were able to prove there was a market; 88 percent of students polled said they would support Starbucks opening on Sunday.”
At the end of the spring semester of 2014, the ProveIt project voting period began. “Sunday Starbucks” received 373 votes, falling short to the “The Garden” project. The movement took a hiatus as summer break began.
However, when students arrived back on campus for the 2014-2015 school year, Starbucks’ hours had been extended. Although this isn’t exactly what Lilly and Massey desired, it appeared some change had been made.
“Although we are not sure to the exact extant of our influence on that decision, we do believe we brought awareness to a very real, and very relevant issue,” according to Lilly and Massey.
Fast forward to the present, one year later, and Starbucks has now decided to open up its doors on Sunday, from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. each week.
Tom Deluca, resident district manager at UMBC, explained how the decision was reached. He said, “we constantly evaluate our hours of operation and look for opportunities to create new services where needed for our students. We decided to open Starbucks on a trial basis to see if the participation would be there to make it a sustainable offering on the weekends.”
Deluca hinted, however, that Starbucks’ Sunday debut may not be going as well as planned. He elaborated, “so far, it is doing a little less than anticipated, so we are doing a bit more marketing to try to drive the sales up.”
When asked why the majority of Chartwells’ dining options are closed on the weekends, Deluca explained that “there just isn’t enough participation on campus during the weekends to warrant more locations being open.”
He later went on to point out that determinations on when to open and close dining options are not whimsical in nature, but logically thought out in a rational manner. He said, “we talk about changes to the programs and hours with the Student Dining Committee that meets three times each semester. We also look at traffic patterns of students, customer counts each hour and sales data.”
With those considerations taken into account, it is also worth debunking a common misnomer around campus. Extended hours, when it comes to campus dining restaurants, do not always equal more profit.
Because the revenue generated from meal plans is collected at the beginning of the year, extending the hours and days for which dining options are open mid-semester would generate little profit if the vast majority of students used meal plans.
This is why on Sundays, Starbucks is accepting every form of payment except meal cards, because it wouldn’t make economical sense to to allow them.
Deluca touched on this issue, “when students use their ‘meals,’ it doesn’t necessarily generate any new income, so if we extend hours we are incurring additional labor costs that have to be covered in some way.”
Deluca, however, does not believe his employees would be opposed to having certain restaurant hours extended. He said, “our associates like to work, and we wouldn’t see much of an issue from a staffing perspective.”
Whether or not the increasing hours and days of operation for Starbucks is indicative of a new trend, with other dining options possibly following suit in the future, is yet to be determined. However, the answer to that question might just hinge on the success or failure of Starbucks on Sundays.