Starbucks competes for Sac State exclusivity contract

Fabian Garcia

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Sacramento State is about to experience a downpour of coffee pretty soon.

University Enterprises, Inc. confirmed a Starbucks is coming to Sac State in the fall of 2013 operating in the recently-closed Copy Graphics Center.  

UEI Executive Director Jim Reinhart said Starbucks will officially open for the new school year but would like to get it up and running even sooner if possible.

“We would like to see it ready to open before the students return,” Reinhart said. “There (are) a lot of ifs because with construction there can be delays and there are lots of permits that are required. So ideally, it will be open in September.”

The on-campus Starbucks will be a licensed operation, costing UEI a licensing fee of $30,000 for a 10-year term. Starbucks will also receive a percentage of the sales it makes from UEI, but because of confidentiality clauses in the ongoing negotiations between UEI and Starbucks, Reinhart did not disclose that percentage.

Although UEI will handle the hiring of all employees and help supervise the training, the operations of the new venue will be in accordance with Starbucks’ corporate policy.

An intensive two-week training program is already set in place consisting of six to eight hours of training each day with a strong emphasis on drink preparation and espresso bar repetition so workers are prepared on the opening day.    

“Starbucks uses store managers from company-operated stores during this two-week period to train our store personnel, so the same standards are taught and required,” Reinhart said. “A Starbucks partner will be at the store during the first five days of operation to consult and advise us.”

The question of why a Starbucks was chosen when there are already multiple Java City coffee spots can be answered with one very simple answer: the Hornet community demanded it.

Based on a focused 2012 survey conducted by UEI, Director of Marketing Services Angela Rader said Starbucks was the top choice among 400 to 500 students canvassed throughout the campus.

“In terms of the responses that we got, it was a 98 percent selection of Starbucks,” Rader said. “There were probably four concepts indicated on that survey. So that’s a fairly high percentage in terms of – given an option or a choice – (who) would want to see a Starbucks here on campus.”

 Reinhart added that opening a Starbucks on campus would offer a wider selection of coffee and other related products, which students might enjoy.

“It’s a different product mix, and we’re excited about offering both types to the students. Then they can choose what they prefer.” 

Reinhart said. “Some people are very particular about the coffee they drink – (some) choose only to drink Starbucks or Peet’s (Coffee and Tea) or Java City.”

 While UEI may be enthusiastic to draft up a new contract with Starbucks, another one of its longstanding partnerships is coming to an abrupt end.

UEI’s 10-year exclusivity contract with Java City will be cut three years short on June 30 due to a mutual agreement between both parties.

“(Java City) used to operate a lot of cafes throughout California, and now the only cafes they still operate are the five on this campus,” Reinhart said. “They wanted to get out of operating the five Java Cities on this campus also, and so that was the opportunity for us to discuss the exclusivity agreement. (Now) UEI is going to assume the operations of the five Java City locations on campus.”

Depending on how financially viable the Java City Roundhouse proves to be in the future – sitting right across the way from where the new Starbucks would be – UEI will decide whether or not to keep that location or to rebrand it with another concept.

Java City was unavailable for comment on the issue.

On the receiving end of things, students have had mixed reactions to the news of a Starbucks coming to Sac State.

Senior criminal justice major Katelin Lowrance, who used to work for a Java City but now works for a Starbucks, said she was thrilled to see a new coffee spot make its way on campus.

“I’m excited about it because I love Starbucks so much,” Lowrance said. “Their coffee is brewed a little bit better. They take more time and respect their coffee a little bit more. I loved the people I worked with at Java City, but Starbucks invests more time in their coffee.”

 Lowrance admitted she might be a bit biased because of what she called her “Starbucksaholic” syndrome, but even students who were not affiliated with the coffeehouse giant were welcoming to the idea.

 Graduating senior photography majors Mason Hershenow and Megan Schneiders said they would not mind a Starbucks at all.

“If I could go to Starbucks every day, I would,” Schneiders said. “But I don’t want to drive there, so having it on campus would be easier.”

Hershenow said he would enjoy having a Starbucks around since there is currently only one selection of coffee on campus.

“Just having some variety would be nice,” Hershenow said. “It’s not that one is better than the other. It’d just be nice to have something else.”

However, not all students were in favor of a new Starbucks.

Second-year communication studies graduate student Nusha Tavakolian said she did not like the idea of another chain restaurant being established in a university setting.

“The idea of chains on campus in general deters me,” Tavakolian said. “I feel like (a) campus should be a good spot to support local (restaurants) honestly – to bring in those family-style places. I mean, we have how many Starbucks in the vicinity, or Java Cities or anything like that?”

 Tavakolian also said what students request is not what is necessarily best for their health.

“I don’t think that the students are always right,” Tavakolian said. “I think if you want to help a student diet and contribute to that atmosphere, then they will eat what you put here – voting or not.”