Jazzman’s-Starbucks transition remains ambiguous


DU campus coffeeshop Jazzman's, set to potentially be replaced by Starbucks

DU campus coffeeshop Jazzman’s, set to potentially be replaced by Starbucks

A proposal to replace the coffeeshop and longtime DU staple Jazzman’s Cafe in Driscoll Bridge with a Starbucks became relatively common knowledge around campus this year, following an announcement published on the online DU Newsroom platform on Aug. 25.


Seemingly indicating a definite plan, the announcement from Sodexo resident district manager Ira Simon stated that the new full service Starbucks would be located downstairs from the former Jazzman’s in the Driscoll Student Center, and would open during Winter Quarter.


However, students began noticing that as Spring Quarter arrived, a new Starbucks didn’t, nor did any news about it. When reached for comment, Simon explained that this was due to a long series of events that has ended in a still uncertain future for the planned coffeeshop swap, which hinges on a decision set to be made by the University sometime this month.

According to Simon, the plan for the Starbucks was originally pitched back in 2012.


“We [Sodexo] developed a five-year picture for campus dining that we pitched to the University,” said Simon. “Starbucks was part of that initial plan, but it would have to wait until the University’s planned renovations for Driscoll Bridge, which were thought to start taking place in 2015.”


But when Sodexo found out in 2014 that the Bridge renovations were postponed, another long-term strategic plan was crafted that had the Starbucks coming in sooner, temporarily closing during the renovations to reopen after.


“DU essentially said ‘we want in now,’” Simon said.


This new plan had the Starbucks transition starting during November, though it was delayed due to unrelated circumstances until February, at which point the Newsroom post announcing an opening during Winter Quarter was presumably made.


However, the key piece of the story that has put the issue in its current state came over Winter break. During the holiday, the University started considering whether the Driscoll Bridge renovations should start sooner, which, according to Simon, would be detrimental to the potential opening of a new Starbucks.”


“With the cost of the entire process of putting it in [about half a million dollars], it wouldn’t be affordable to just have the Starbucks open for one year and then not make anything in sales while it’s closed during renovation.”


Therefore, the future of the Starbucks rests on the University’s plans for renovation, about which a decision has been scheduled to be made before May 1st.


“It’s all dependent on this decision about when to renovate; if they say yes to sooner renovations, then we’ll keep Jazzman’s running for the time being, if they say no, then we’ll move forward with Starbucks.


This temporary ambiguity leaves time to consider how a new Starbucks would be received by students, employees and Sodexo.


From a purely business standpoint, the transition would be remarkably positive.


As Simon explains, “Yearly sales from Jazzman’s total about $175,000. A Starbucks’ yearly sales would be between $500,000 and $750,000.”


This huge increase in profitability is due to the brand recognition that Starbucks offers. More students recognize and know the quality of branded campus retail options (such as Einstein’s Bagels or World of Wings as opposed to one-off’s like Jazzman’s), which offers a unique benefit for Sodexo.


“Starbucks is the only retail business that actually makes a profit for Sodexo on any campus. Other restaurants increase return and improve student satisfaction ratings but sales from Starbucks have actually exceeded its costs. Jazzman’s only breaks even.”


Simon spoke highly of the non-economic benefits of the Starbucks as well, which the University seems to agree with. Longer hours of operation, more seating, and the potential for evening programming and a heightened sense of community were all listed as plusses and reasons that the University initially pushed for the transition.


“It’s not just about selling a cup of coffee,” as Simon put it.

The interior of Jazzman's on a typical weekday morning. Opportunties for a more communal space are among the benefits of the potential Starbucks swap.

The interior of Jazzman’s on a typical weekday morning. Opportunties for a more communal space are among the benefits of the potential Starbucks swap.

These factors would likely change the game for Jazzman’s, which closes at 5 p.m. and doesn’t offer comparable amenities or events to nearby student-run coffeeshop Beans.


The Starbucks would take the form of a “licensed agreement” with Sodexo, which differs from a franchise in that it offers more control for the licensee (in this case, the University). This would likely lead to a smooth transition; current Jazzman’s employees would be transitioned over and trained by outside Starbucks staff, while Sodexo could continue running business as usual.


However, the prospect doesn’t have all employees excited.


“I like Jazzman’s the way that it is,” said an employee who wished to remain anonymous. “It’ll get much harder with learning all new equipment and being so much more busy all the time.”


The potential of Starbucks staff making monthly visits to ensure quality control mentioned by Simon likely wouldn’t make matters better.


“At the end of the day though, whatever’s best for the company,” the employee said.


As would be expected, students are largely excited as well. The potential to use FLEX cash on Starbucks purchases was a major selling point for freshman Alice Major.


“My roommate and I are definitely huge Starbucks fans, and using FLEX is one of the biggest benefits of Jazzman’s right now,” Major said.


Major and others recognized a relative sufficiency of Jazzman’s though, perhaps portending less severe reaction to a transition than would have originally been thought.


“I won’t be too sad if Starbucks doesn’t come through,” Major said. “I like their smoothies a lot, and to be honest if ever really want it, there’s a Starbucks to the north of campus… and a Starbucks to the south of campus!”


The oft-discussed and mysterious Starbucks remains nothing more than a possibility for the rest of the month, but it leaves much exciting potential in the air, even if more for Sodexo than anyone else.

One Response to Jazzman’s-Starbucks transition remains ambiguous

  • Will Moss says:


    I found your story very informative and thought you did a great job outlining both parties feelings on the possible Jazzman’s change to Starbucks. As a student here, I had no idea of these kinds of plans and believe that the Starbucks would have a significantly positive effect on the Driscoll Bridge area. It’s a step closer to making Driscoll Bridge a real social location for student, something I believe that is currently lacking.

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