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SMC remodels Cyber Cafe to increase seating capacity

| Friday, September 4, 2015

As students returned to Saint Mary’s campus for the new school year, many noticed new arrangements at Cyber Cafe.

According to general manager of Dining Services Barry Bowles, the cafe went through a remodeling over the summer to help improve efficiency, to meet better the needs of students and to further sustainability goals held by Sodexo, the dining services provider of Saint Mary’s.

DSC02839Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Bowles said the new configuration of the cafe is actually the same setup it had a number of years ago. He said the College had a need for more seating in the Student Center, especially since Rice Commons holds more and more events each year and thus cannot always be utilized by students.

“We need seats,” Bowles said. “We need a comfortable space for students. … I’ve seen professors doing small groups in [Cyber] this year. Professors meeting with students in there, that type of thing. I think it’s serving its purpose to what we wanted it to do. I still am excited about what we’re doing.”

Another change is the absence of the iMacs that used to line a wall of the cafe. Bowles said those computers were the most underutilized computers on campus, so IT moved them to other buildings on campus.

However, the IT department increased the strength of the wi-fi in the cafe, and they are working on including charging stations so students can still use their personal devices, Bowles said.

Not only did the cafe switch its market and seating area, but Bowles said other changes have also been made. Two programs the cafe is focusing on this year are options from Starbucks and sustainability.

“Our biggest concern coming back was sustainability issues,” Bowles said. “All those little creamers and sugar packets and everything else. You’ll notice everything now is self-contained. We’re trying to reduce the amount of waste we have in that area. … It may not seem like much to have the bulk liquid creamer and the bulk sugar, but every little bit is helping.”

Starbucks options will also increase in the cafe, Bowles said, and those changes are expected to happen in the near future.

The new look of the cafe also helps decrease wait times for food and motivates employees to work better, Bowles said. People no longer have to crowd the cash registers because there is more open space to wait for orders.

“We are busier, but students don’t wait as long, and now the wait is actually tolerable because not everyone is standing right there,” he said. “There’s places to go and sit down and wait for you to be called. It’s a lot more comfortable, and there’s not that big congestion.

“What that did was ease the stress on the staff. It has this mental effect for employees that they are doing a good job and they are moving fast. Before, they couldn’t really tell.”

As for the market, Bowles said the switch helped make everything look more organized. The new area made shelves a more viable option, and the products are better spaced out.

The market also increased its selection, he said.

“We’re carrying more products that students were looking for,” Bowles said. “What’s nice about how it’s laid out now is that it looks more organized and it looks a lot better kept than what we’ve done in the past.”

He said some products were discontinued, such as two-liter bottles of soda, because those were not selling at the prices Sodexo was required to have. The chip section has been reduced, but the overall aesthetic of the market makes this less noticeable.

Students and employees have welcomed the changes within Cyber Cafe, Bowles said. He has received positive feedback, and the cafe made $1,000 more in the first week of school than it had the same week previous years.

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About Nicole Caratas

Nicole is a senior English Writing and Humanistic Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. Now a senior news writer, she previously served as the Saint Mary's Editor. She was born in real Chicago but grew up in the suburbs, and she currently lives in Opus Hall.

Contact Nicole