The eight colleges at California State University, Los Angeles, known as Cal State L.A., are recognized for outstanding academic programs and professors renowned as mentors and top researchers. Cal State L.A. has been named by Washington Monthly as one of the top 10 master’s universities in the nation for its contributions to the public good.
A variety of eating establishments on campus provide food options for tens of thousands of students who attend the public university in the heart of Los Angeles. “We have one of the two top convenience businesses in the company [Barnes & Noble College],” said Elaine Reed, general manager of Cal State L.A.’s five store operations on campus. “It is challenging, but I have great people and I rely on those folks to help me run those businesses.”
Feeding the campus community at such a large school in the California State University system is no small undertaking. It’s also a task that has not gone unnoticed by the University. “It’s not always easy to manage a large operation like the one Elaine manages at Cal State L.A.,” said Jose Gomez, the University’s executive vice president & chief operating officer. “We have three convenience stores, two coffee houses and a very, very large bookstore serving 28,000 students.”
One of Cal State L.A.’s newest eating establishments is Café 47 — named in tribute to the year the university was founded. The café opened its doors this spring, and its location in the John F. Kennedy Library (across from the bustling academic King Hall) makes it a prime go-to spot for students looking for a wake-me-up cup of joe or just a quick break to stave off hunger pangs during late-night study sessions.
Café 47 serves coffee from the Gaviña Gourmet Coffee Company, which has been roasting coffee in L.A. since 1967. Today, the Gaviña family — which began its business in Cuba — is owned by four siblings, all of whom graduated from Cal State L.A. The company operates its state-of-the-art coffee roasting facility just a few blocks from its original building. “There’s a very strong Hispanic culture on this campus and many first-generation students attend our university,” says Reed, “There’s a lot of pride on our campus.”
Reed also manages the on-campus stand-alone university bookstore; a licensed Starbucks café located in the University Student Union; the Metro Express, a quick-stop convenience store located on the first floor of the Hertzberg – Davis Forensic Science Center at the south end of campus; and the Golden Eagle Express, a convenience store across from the Transit Center that offers snacks and beverages for people on the go at this largely commuter school.
Research shows that students typically spend $23 a week on convenience items — across multiple locations. Working with the Home Office, Reed and her team select a wide range of fresh and packaged foods and drinks – including organic, non-GMO options, vegan and gluten-free offerings as well as ethnic fare — that appeal to the diverse appetites and tastes of students at university. “We’re continuously updating our menus and merchandise offerings based on our ongoing research and conversations with our customers,” explained Reed. “As a commuter campus, we have to ensure that we can appeal to our students’ eating and snacking on-the-go lifestyles.”
According to Barnes & Noble College’s Snack Attack report, 70 percent of college students eat multiple snacks a day. That easy availability of food and beverages is extremely important – particularly for a campus like Cal State L.A., where 95 percent of enrolled students live off campus. Given the large commuter population and their busy schedules, it’s no surprise that students are often snacking and multitasking on the go. Operating multiple locations across campus that offer a variety of food options, not only provides convenience for students, but also a place where they can meet to study or hang out between classes. “We also have two high schools on campus,” said Reed. “A performing-arts high school and math and science academy — and those students are using the café, as well.”
Reed, who won a Campus Leadership Award at this year’s Barnes & Noble College Annual Meeting, manages with a simple philosophy. To operate her multiple store locations successfully, she focuses on the customer experience — the key to returning customers and her stores’ ultimate success. “The services and the engagement with the campus have improved and you can see it in the bottom line,” Cal State L.A.’s Gomez said of Reed’s management. “Our numbers have increased dramatically.”