Plans for offering specialty coffees at Feather River College are on the back burner.
While FRC President Kevin Trutna poured out the details of his fact-finding mission to trustees Thursday, April 18, it became apparent there are few grounds for brewing up a coffee shop.
“We’ve done quite a bit of research,” Trutna said.
He interviewed 118 students about whether they already purchase specialty coffees off campus and if they would buy it on campus. Forty-seven percent said they would buy coffee on campus at $5 a cup if it were available.
While that might be encouraging, the rest of the information wasn’t promising.
Student labor is a major factor in determining whether a coffee shop in the campus Eagle’s Perch Café would fly. The evidence shows that students don’t stick to a job. “Student labor is unreliable,” he said.
Fifteen students have come and gone from employment at the Eagle’s Perch Café this year. “That’s not good,” he said.
Many students are paid minimum wage and work 1.8 hours a day. Although higher wages are on the way, the additional cost might further hamper the success of a coffee shop.
Trutna said that another issue is that the Eagle’s Perch is open during prime class time and many students are in class not at a job.
Doing his research, Trutna told trustees that he went to the owners of coffee shops in Quincy. They were all cooperative. One even volunteered to show Trutna the books.
What transpired is that there’s a lot more involved than brewing up a great cup of coffee. The water is important to the system. The system has to be thoroughly cleaned at the right time every day. It’s an unforgiving process that must be followed, he learned.
During his research, Trutna said that one Quincy operation offered to sell the college its coffee equipment.
Eagle’s Perch Manager Sean Conry told Trutna that when he managed a restaurant in Graeagle he took out the specialty coffee machine. It wasn’t profitable and it was time consuming.
On that theme, Conry said he is always seeking ways to cut costs in the Eagle’s Perch. He’s moved to purchasing precut fresh fruit, because it’s labor intensive. Frequently he’s the only one there.
Trutna said he did the math on how many cups of specialty coffee had to be sold every day to make a venture successful and the numbers just weren’t there.
Trutna said that he’s also investigated a mobile coffee operation. But there are issues there, too.
One company representative said they would have to sell at least 80 cups a day to make a mobile unit pay for itself. Another dealer said it was 100 cups a day.
Trustee Guy McNett good naturedly scolded Trutna for taking on the research himself.
McNett also said that Trutna had missed a teachable moment. The research should have been turned over to one of the classes as a project.
Trustee Trent Saxton quickly reminded Trutna that he had volunteered to do the research.
Trutna didn’t respond to Saxton, but he told McNett that he’s a little protective of students.
People say to have students do things, but there are curricula to consider. And the research on offering specialty coffees on campus might not be appropriate for classes, Trutna explained. “Student classes are not student labor.”
Doing the necessary research does fall under administration, Trutna added. And “it was kind of a positive for me.”
While the specialty coffee venture idea stimulated trustees, Trutna didn’t say that the proposal is off the table, but it isn’t full steam ahead.