WLUSU Hopes Coffee Kiosk Will Aid Struggling Williams

From The CordNov. 23, 2011

So, there are two copies of this story out there this morning.

There is, of course, the short one written for my beloved Sputnik, and then an extended version with some added tidbits which is published in our sister paper in Waterloo, The Cord. Please note the one below contains files from Marcie Foster, Lead Reporter for The Cord.

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The Wilfrid Laurier University Student Union hopes a new coffee kiosk on the Brantford campus will not only fulfil student needs, but boost business to the struggling Williams operation.

The Williams Fresh Café in Laurier Brantford’s Market Square, which is franchised by WLUSU, had a deficiency of over $111,000 for the year ending April 2011, according to documents obtained by The Cord and The Sputnik.

Compared to 2009 when the deficit was running over $220,000, the running deficit has been nearly halved in the two-year period. Yet, Williams still struggles financially, as seen by the six-digit price tag that it costs to run the restaurant.

In all, since its 2008 opening, the Williams at Laurier Brantford has ran up a deficit of $655,398.

However, members of WLUSU are optimistic that Golden Grounds, a new coffee and hot drink kiosk in Laurier Brantford’s Research and Academic Centre West building, will help boost business at the café. The coffee kiosk, set to open Dec. 5, is expected to generate a modest surplus of around $20,000 each year.

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Golden Grounds will feature locally roasted beans from Blue Dog Coffee Roasters, a local favourite amongst both students and faculty.

“It will balance where we’re serving coffee and people have options, we’re going to be able to serve more people at Williams and turn the tables over faster, and ultimately make everybody happy,” said Michael McMahon, general manager of WLUSU.

“[The kiosk will be] right near the bookstore, just like the Starbucks in the [Waterloo campus] Concourse,” added WLUSU president and CEO Nick Gibson of the kiosk’s convenience.

“It is right near the student centre and right near the athletic complex; it’s centrally located and a little more accessible to students and it’s also near a lot of study space and lounge space as well.”

Others fear, however, that the new kiosk will only take away from the already struggling Williams.

With the addition of increased food options in the downtown core as the campus grows, with the likes of Coffee Culture, Pantry Café, and others, there is a potential for Williams to fade into the scenery of downtown restaurants, as it is no longer holds a monopoly on the downtown eating core.

Even still, McMahon says that Williams is a necessity for Laurier Brantford, acting as an essential service to students.

“There is no healthy balanced food option for students in Brantford, right now the university hasn’t offered any other food options for students, and what’s available downtown does not reflect that, where a student can find a healthy meal,” he said.

One advantage that Williams does have over other competitors is its secondary use as a study area for Laurier students. As Holly Kaiser, executive vice-president: Brantford for WLUSU, points out, the space is crammed with students on an everyday basis.

“[The original idea was] in creating the full service restaurant, instead of potentially just the window style, it gave students a place to go and sit and study, and we don’t kick students out for studying too long, even if they just have a drink, that’s not a thing, we don’t do that, because it provides for students,” Kaiser said. “And I think that even if the WLUSU isn’t making copious amounts of money off Williams, the idea is to do something for students, to fill a need, fill the gap.”

Gibson added that Williams has undergone major strategic changes over the summer in order to reduce the deficit and prevent further loss.

“Management structure has been a big thing,” he said. “Having more efficient use of space, and a little bit different in terms of service offerings. So that would be an example of the coffee kiosk as a different offering on the campus.”

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