For Victor Crindal ’14 and Erin Einarson ’14, the BREW Café at the Offutt School of Business in Grant Center is more than a coffee shop. It’s their classroom.
The student managers oversee the coffee shop’s day-to-day operations. They do it all – from scheduling 15 employees to ordering supplies. The experience allows them to put into practice what they study in their business classrooms down the hall.
“There’s a difference between what’s on paper and what happens in real life,” says Crindal, a business finance major from France.
BREW Café opened at the start of the academic year, its name a nod to coffee and the college’s core curriculum, Becoming Responsibly Engaged in the World.
The work began months before. Crindal and Einarson selected equipment and established relationships with vendors. They also developed procedures and policies for the small business.
The café sells Starbucks coffee, bakery items from Concordia’s Dining Services and sandwiches from Erbert and Gerbert’s.
“They’ve done a stellar job and they keep learning and growing,” says Julie Lovin, coordinator in the Anderson Office of Career Success. “Operationally, everything has gone very well.”
Along the way, Crindal and Einarson have learned to adjust their plans. For example, they added the sandwiches to the menu after customers requested a meal option.
They also started cross-promoting with athletic teams, a natural partner because of the coffee shop’s proximity to Memorial Auditorium and the outdoor fields. This fall the café promoted a football game by offering BREW Café coupons to the first 100 students who attended. They also hosted a half-court shooting contest at a basketball game.
“We’ve learned that while we have to be profitable, we also have to be engaged with our college,” Crindal says. “It gives us visibility.”
So far, the café’s best sellers have been banana chocolate chip muffins, brewed coffee and sandwiches. The biggest challenges? Finding the right number of employees to schedule for each shift and covering for those who are sick.
“We’re constantly trying to balance things,” says Einarson, who minors in business.
And they’re already planning to improve things. For example, the managers hope to discontinue bottled and canned beverages once they have enough profits to purchase a soda fountain.
In the meantime, the students are thankful for the opportunity to practice business in the same place they study it.
A food, nutrition and dietetics major from Baxter, Minn., Einarson combines expertise in food code and safety with her business sense – skills that have proven helpful when determining how long to keep inventory. She hopes her BREW Café experiences will make her more competitive for dietetic internships.
Crindal expected to enjoy the accounting end of the business but found he is challenged and fulfilled by managing employees.
“We’re lucky to have this opportunity right here,” he says.