The sales from auxiliary services such as cafeterias and retail stores can be a good source of revenue for community colleges. But sometimes, a little ingenuity is required. During the 2016-17 school year, the bookstore and food service operation at Orange County Community College in New York (SUNY Orange) lost more than $200,000 combined—and officials knew they had to make significant changes.
“Our food service had never turned a profit since the college was founded in the 1950s,” says Vinnie Cazzetta, vice president for institutional advancement and executive director of the college association. “Our bookstore sales had always overcome those losses, but now students have many other options for buying their books, such as Amazon, eBay or Chegg.”
After the bookstore also lost money for the first time, Cazzetta and the association’s board of directors began exploring other options. Instead of running the store themselves, they decided to outsource its operation to Follett. The company pays the college a guaranteed sum of $225,000 per year for this right and keeps all remaining profits.
“They remodeled the store with an updated look and provided some services that we couldn’t provide ourselves, simply because of their size and scale,” Cazzetta says.
For instance, Follett offers an online service in which a club or sports team can order any number of T-shirts or other items; when SUNY Orange was running the store, students had to order a minimum number of items from manufacturers.
Cazzetta and his board also looked at many options for transforming their food service operations. They settled on replacing the college’s cafeteria with a “micro market,” in which students and faculty grab food from self-service kiosks and pay using a credit, debit, or micro market card. The college also has a food truck come to campus every weekday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to give students and faculty more hot food choices.
The college contracted with Avanti Markets to provide the micro-market service. Avanti works with a local vending company to make sure the market is fully stocked three times per week. “The only thing we do is drop by the micro market and straighten up each afternoon,” Cazzetta says. “It requires very minimal responsibility on our end.”
Moving to a micro-market approach brought the college from a $154,000 loss to a $78,000 net profit from its food service operations in a single year. Adding the guaranteed money from outsourcing its bookstore to Follett, the college made more than $300,000 from these auxiliary services last year.
You can learn more about this in the forthcoming issue of Community College Journal, which will be in your mailboxes and online later this month.