Blackstone Cafe delivery service cancelled due to lack of profit

Campus dining sees drop in revenue during first year of profit-split between Bon Appétit and Biola.

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Blackstone Cafe delivery service cancelled due to lack of profit

Photo by Thecla Li / THE CHIMES

Photo by Thecla Li / THE CHIMES

Photo by Thecla Li / THE CHIMES

Photo by Thecla Li / THE CHIMES

Christian Leonard, Editor-in-Chief

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Last fall, two students came to Bon Appétit with an idea for a service that would let customers request food to be delivered anywhere on campus. Their idea came to fruition in January, with Tapingo users able to order from Eagles’ Nest and Blackstone Cafe by pressing the newly active delivery tab.

Just one semester later, the delivery section of the app is bare, the young service discontinued after failing to yield a profit during a period when restaurants across campus are having difficulty attracting sales.

LOOKING BACK AT THE PROJECT

Though the service was pitched as a way for students to easily get food late at night, it did not attract enough customers to justify its renewal this semester, according to Bon Appétit general manager Steve Rall. He says Blackstone Cafe hired additional staff to run the new service, but overall sales did not increase. Students continue to go off campus to spend their pocket money on food, he believes.

Senior accounting major Leslie Chan, who helped pitch the service and still works at Blackstone Cafe, believes that the location of the business has hurt its sales for years, and that the delivery system was not enough to offset the disadvantage.

“The execution of the delivery, I think, was kind of poor. It was as expected because it was experimental… It [was] not as smoothly run as it could be if there was a professional backing for it,” Chan said.

Her partner, senior psychology major Stephanie Campos, notes that besides failing to generate enough revenue, the service also experienced other setbacks, including carts getting stuck during delivery runs. However, she also says she appreciates the experience.

“You started this and you want to see it flourish but sometimes it’s not the case, so it’s okay,” Campos said. “So it didn’t really hurt me when they said they weren’t doing it anymore, because I was thinking it was the opportunity. If they wouldn’t have given us the opportunity, I think that would have hurt more.”

ON-CAMPUS DINING EXPERIENCES DECLINE

Blackstone Cafe is not the only retailer on campus experiencing decline. While late-night business soared to abnormal levels  last year, this year’s sales have dropped, according to Rall. Heritage Cafe and the Talon have managed to maintain revenue, but Eagles’ Nest has suffered the worst with a difference from last year of about $600 per day.

Rall says he does not know why the finances have shifted, but he hopes drawing more students to the Caf, which has a larger food preparation facility and more workers than the on-campus restaurants, will help with the situation. Since Bon Appétit and Biola are profit-splitting for the first time this year, he says he has to look at the numbers.

“When it comes to survey time, [students] hate Bon Appétit. And I’m not here to be hated, you know, I want to be liked and I want to do stuff that’s right for the kids, but I got to protect financially,” Rall said.

Though he believes Blackstone Cafe will never be a profitable location, he hopes the addition of nitrogen coffee and non-alcoholic kombucha will draw more traffic.

For those looking to pitch an idea for the upper campus retailer or for any other business, Chan recommends collecting plenty of data.

“Research is always the main thing that drives a business idea, because if there’s no research, how do you know for sure if your business idea is going to flourish?” Chan said.