Through an extensive partnership with Starbucks, Sodexo has offered many of their popular drinks, but our on-campus cafes (Polar Espresso and Northern Lights) have never been “true” locations. This might be changing over the summer as talks have begun to bring a real Starbucks to Ada, but the likely cost is Cosi.
The Ada Cosi came to Northern in May 2016 as a replacement for Northern on Main (NOM). Aside from sharing a parking lot with Taco Bell, the physical location is excellent from a business standpoint with it being directly across from the main entrance to campus. It’s also the only place so close to the front of campus that allows meal swipes. However, the Cosi brand is its own entity, and the campus can no longer keep them here.
Teachers, especially those in the front of campus, are concerned about how student food options will be limited by the change. According to English professor, Dr. Pullen, “the change is highly problematic. We already have Starbucks coffee available on campus, and the food selection at Starbucks isn’t as good (quality, selection, or healthiness) and is much more expensive. While the atmosphere and coffee will probably be better, I don’t think it’s worth the narrowing of already rather narrow food options for students.”
For students, the mere possibility has spawned derision. The March Student Feedback Form asked the question, “How do you feel about Cosi becoming a Starbucks?” and of the 170 responses, 50.6% were plainly negative with 31.2% of respondents choosing “other” to give their exact feelings on the matter and the majority of those were also negative in nature. Following the March Student Feedback Form, the April Student Feedback form accounted for 99 students where 81.8% will go to Northern Lights in the Library for refreshments rather than Starbucks (Cosi) or Polar Espresso.
On April 13th an anonymous student even threatened to start a petition to keep Cosi at Northern, and one petition was started April 20th by Drew Hurley, a Freshman Civil Engineering student and Diego Avello, a Freshman Pharmacy student. Within an hour of the petition’s posting on social media, it gained more than 200 signatures and is still continuing to acquire additional support. After 24 hours just under 500 signatures have been made.
A day later, Avello spoke at Student Senate’s General Assembly meeting speaking for the student body addressing their concerns. Student Senate gave him harsh commentary because unfortunately for these students, Starbucks on Main is almost certain. After Student Senate and Avello chatted back and forth, Avello understood he could not do much to change Cosi on Northern’s outcome, so instead he has decided to move his focus on the Simply ToGo option. There are ways to make this option better for the students, and Avello is committed to pursuing that avenue with the campus.
During a dining committee meeting, some troubling information on Cosi’s history and longevity was revealed. In July 2016, the same year Cosi was established in Ada, the brand filed for bankruptcy. Ada has not been the best revenue source, but neither has it followed anticipated trends. Cosi at Northern was well known for Squagels, but Cosi decided to discontinue them. This resulted in ONU going against these orders to keep squagels as they are a product Cosi at Northern is known to carry. Over the years, this is only one of many things that ONU has had to fight against to keep bringing in revenue.
Noah Ristau, the general manager for food service at ONU explained his misgivings about trying to keep Cosi. “The brand is diminishing, I stopped there this morning to grab a cup of coffee and had a flashback of when it first opened, a super polished, slick Cosi branded cup with a really unique lid and it was sweet. Today I received a whole flimsy styrofoam cup which was the kind that I would see at my kid’s concession stand at school. I mean it is just a family brand, we need something there before we don’t have the option anymore, and they go away and then we don’t have nothing.”
A repeated critique of the move lies in Starbucks being more well-known for drinks over food. Many of the “other” responses in the Student Feedback Survey wanted to know why a “drink” place would be replacing a place that many students relied on for food, but Starbucks wasn’t the only brand in ONU’s initial list. One of the options that dining services pursued was Chick-Fil-A, but due to the brand’s strong foundation in Findlay, it didn’t want to potentially fragment that store’s business. Starbucks just happened to be the brand that wanted to come to Ada.
Product research (Aug 1, 2020-April 2021) from Cosi at Northern shows that most of the food bought has an equitable transfer. Pizza, for example, will not be offered at Starbucks, but that only accounted for 4% of everything sold in the past year. In fact, the largest product group sold was drinks at approximately 30% of total revenue. Price still remains the largest concern, but Starbucks has said that they will honor polar points and dining dollars. At the disappointment of campus Starbucks has, however, refused to accept meal swipes.
As of now, ONU is in the final stages of securing a partnership with Starbucks. The whole administration is on board with the move; at Town Hall, President Dan DiBiasio said, “we are all excited for this new business.” The current plan is for Starbucks to open for the fall semester with a 12-hour business day. The ONU dining committee has faced many challenges with both Cosi and student opinion, but with a little ingenuity and student patience, the changes might run smoothly.