In the Fall term of 2018 the Bennington College community experienced the ramifications of the renovation of Commons; the main student building where the dining facility was located. Dining services shifted temporarily to the Student Center, a space much too small for their operation.
Previously the student center served as a social hub for the students, managed mostly by students with oversight by two employees.
The changes of that term made the campus limited to one dining facility on campus and the administration decided to cut down the dining hours to be more equitable in the number of staff they have. This created issues of access and food justice on campus. Suddenly, students could not find food after 9 PM, and were only given brief windows of time during busy weekday for meal access.
To combat this, I started a full student-led entrepreneurship project on campus with a group of other students and with the support of the director of center of Public Action, Susan Sgorbati. We surveyed the student-body using 5 questions. In order to get their feedback on their preferred: times of operation, available types of food, the design and layout of the space, and its name.
Bennies Cafe solved the campus’s issue with dining, which was not having food service after 9 pm. The cafe’s mission was to provide students with retail services and a meal swipe equivalent in a space that hosted student-led social events, through student management, while also offering other services such as: free coffee, baked goods, prepared meals.
Educational Outcomes: Experimentation with the model that we created in setting the structure for the organization, the establishment of the facility, marketing, student outreach, interior design, food, training of employees, and having regular meetings with the school’s executive chef and director.
All student cafe board members were expected to work 4 hours a week (two 2-hour shifts), attend a weekly meeting, and dedicate a set amount of time per week to their managerial duties. Managerial duties could be completed while not attending to customers at cafe (during a lull in ordering) and/or in set weekly “office” time.
Shift duties include opening, space maintenance, food and drink service and preparation, handling cash, tracking inventory on a daily basis, cleaning, closing, unpacking stock, and costumer service.
- At beginning of term, make schedule and keep updated as term progresses
- Manage shift coverage in advance
- Handle weekly income and expansion
- Analysis of revenue
- Food orders and planning
- Connect with student bakers/cooks as sources
- Track weekly inventory
- Manage student work showcases in cafe
- Support on-shift workers in drawing customers through programming (ie movie screenings, game nights, casual student performances)
- Program non-PAC events
- PAC Liason; attend every other PAC meeting
- Meeting notes and minutes
- General liaison
- Social Media management
- Promotion of specials
- Community engagement
- Poster creation
The student managers also maintained a feedback loop with the students on updating the menu, and/or other services that we could provide. We communicated our updated menu and items via social media posting on Instagram and Facebook.
Project Timeline: (Spring 2018) Tutorial > (Fall 2018) Partnership with dining hall (food services) and buildings and grounds (maintenance) – Received donations from CAPA > Recruitment > Training ~ distribution of tasks based on the skills of each member of the group > regular meetings for operations and planning > Opening of the Student-led Cafe> Establishing the feedback loop > (Spring 2019) Re-opening; resuming operations > More events and fundraisers were held > Opening of Roz’s Cafe in Commons > co-managed by students and dining services.