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Revamped Paces Cafe hopeful for greater customer satisfaction

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For the past couple semesters, Paces Cafe has been rapidly changing its policies to be more tailored to the students. This semester, it has continued updating by increasing OneCard access, expanding its staff, and customizing its menu.

For instance, the second semester of the 2016-2017 calendar year saw the cafe introduce the OneCard as a new method of payment. However, the OneCard plan for Paces was unique in that they could only accept Swat Points — which are points used in the Ville — in bundles of $10. Claire Conley ’20, a second-year short order cook, and other members of Paces saw that this was a problem because students were often forced to spend more money if they wanted to use their OneCards.

“At the beginning of Paces last spring, [we] could only take Ville Points in bundles of $10. This led to a lot of frustration as not many people want to be forced into paying $10 if they really only want an Italian soda,” Conley said.

In response, Paces compromised with administration to introduce $5 bundles as well, but this put pressure on Paces instead. Conley said that in order for Paces to sell food last year in bundles of $5 or $10, food items had to be very overpriced or underpriced. However, Conley noted that the transition to the OneCard made the cafe much more accessible and popular to students.

Cindy Li ’20 is one such students who was attracted by the new OneCard option.

“I had never been to Paces until last spring when they started offering the OneCard. However, I found it difficult to go often because I had to spend a certain amount of money each time,” Li said.

To make the OneCard more usable and appealing, Ahmad Shaban ’19, the head director at Paces Cafe, worked over the summer to make key changes to improve customer satisfaction.

We no longer accept cash, but we take Swat Points (off-campus points) and Garnet Cash. This change is helpful because we no longer have to worry about the process of cash handling, and instead, we can focus on the operation. We are happy with this change because now more students can come to Paces and enjoy the beautiful space, the great food and drinks, and the warm, cheerful atmosphere that our staff creates,” Shaban wrote in an email. Paces has already seen a spike in sales this year after the adoption of the new OneCard plan.

Another notable change is that Paces hired an extra barista for every night to cut down the waiting time for food and drinks. Li and other customers said one of the main criticisms last year was that the orders were very backed up, and sometimes drinks and food would come out at totally different times.

“I know as someone who has worked some very busy shifts [that] the second barista is essential. Milkshakes are [difficult] to make, super messy and ingredient heavy,” said Conley. Hiring a barista also allowed other cooks to specialize in their own areas of food; this allows both drinks and food to be ready more quickly.

Li also vouched for this improvement.

“The time for the food to come out this year is definitely faster compared to last year, but it’s still pretty slow. Also, Paces has only been open for several weeks this year so I think once the opening week crowd disappears in a bit, the food will come out even faster,” she said.

The last significant change is the menu itself. Paces wants to introduce more food and drink options. One way they are doing this is by serving vegetarian and vegan options. Paces also hired Henry Han ’20, an experienced former chef to help with menu decisions.

“He makes sure that everything is running smoothly each night, but as a former chef himself, he wants to talk with the people that work at Paces about sprucing up the menu. I am super excited about this, because one of my favorite things that Paces does is specials,” Conley said.

These three physical changes focus not only on improving the customer experience but also the worker experience. Conley hopes that an increase in customers will bring in enough revenue to pay the workers more.

“Another goal is to eventually make a profit to the point where they can pay the workers and be independent of the college. Right now our revenue covers the cost of food, but we don’t make enough money to pay our workers hourly wages,” Conley said.

Paces continues to take student feedback to help improve the experience. It will be exciting to see how the cafe will continue to change in the future.

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