By Ed Veilleux
The experience of waiting in a Tim Hortons line filled with dozens of students, stretching down the bowling alley, may soon be just a memory at Laurentian University.
Starbucks is on the way, according to Carol McAulay, vice-president of administration at Laurentian.
“We identified the library area as an area that could use additional services, particularly because often we see long line- ups at the Tim Hortons in the bowling alley,” McAulay said. “Both Aramark and (Laurentian) agreed that we need another outlet in that sort-of neighbourhood.”
Aramark currently, and for the next four years, has the contract to provide food services to Laurentian’s campus. When Aramark does a review of services, the company splits the campus into sections, or “neighbourhoods,” and they determined the academic neighbourhood (the library area) could use an extra outlet, according to McAulay.
“After discussion with Aramark, we agreed the library rotunda would be a great spot, so we’re working with them to bring another food service outlet.”
It’s important, according to McAulay, that food services is cost-neutral on campus, which means the university doesn’t lose money paying for it.
In terms of the next step towards bringing in the Starbucks franchise, McAulay added: “The next conversation is ‘who pays for the capital cost’ (between Laurentian and Aramark).”
The estimated capital cost to get the new outlet up-and-running is $325,000 to $350,000, which would include the franchise and the renovations.
One option is that Aramark would foot the bill, and would regain the money over time, which could take several years, and possibly longer than the four-year contract Aramark has signed with Laurentian.
The second option would have Laurentian paying for the capital cost, while increasing the amount of funds Aramark pays to the universe to recover the cost.
A challenge for the plan, according to McAulay, is the four-year contract with Aramark.
“We’re still discussing who pays the capital cost and over what period it will be returned. It’s a little interesting when there’s only four years left on the contract because we wouldn’t expect any new outlet to pay for itself, for its capital costs necessarily in four years. That’s part of the discussion.”
Aramark is currently rendering what the outlet will look like, while both sides (LU and Aramark) work on figuring out the cost of the franchise plus the capital costs to renovate the rotunda, if changes are needed.
If the university decides to pay the capital costs of the new outlet, it would leave itself free to not renew Aramark’s contract at the end of four years.
“I think it’s likely that the university would rather remain flexible. Particularly because we know how important food services are to students, faculty and staff.”
Another option is for Aramark to pay for it and to start paying down the capital cost over the four years, having Laurentian buy them out of the new outlet after the four- year period is over.
McAulay estimates that it would take roughly 10 years to pay off a new capital project, such as the building of the Starbucks outlet.
“Once we have a rendering and a capital cost estimate, which we’re sort of in the final stages of, we’ll (be able) to make a decision then.”
Aramark is expected to staff the new Starbucks outlet, as it presently does with all food outlets on campus.
“These change are important to student satisfaction, and faculty and staff satisfaction. That’s really what (the changes) are focused on, to make sure that the community has the food services that they want.”
McAulay said it was apparent that a new coffee shop was needed in the area, and several chains were considered (including another Tim Hortons, a Second Cup and etc.) before Starbucks was settled on.
“When we look at the city, and understanding that there is no Starbucks service in the South End of (Greater Sudbury), looking at the comparative costs of the different franchises, it made sense.”
Starbucks would be a franchise that the Greater Sudbury community at-large may also be interested in, she added.
“We need about 22 weeks to build the outlet. There are about 22 weeks before September. So, that’s our plan.”
In terms of what the Starbucks means to the Laurentian community, McAulay is optimistic about the new outlet’s potential.
“I think it’s pretty exciting. We’ve certainly heard that there’s less than 100 per cent satisfaction with the food services available on campus, so my goal (is to) improve the offerings on campus and improve quality, price and etc. Our overall goal is to improve the student experience by improving all our food options on campus.”