August 31, 2011

Cornell Dining Attempts to Keep Price of Coffee Low in Cafés

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Despite market volatility and increased operational costs, Cornell Dining has attempted to keep prices low for its coffee products, according to Karen Brown, director of marketing and communications for Campus Life.

This year the price of a 12-ounce Seattle’s Best brewed coffee rose 10 cents to $1.55 and the price of a latte rose six cents to $2.55. The hike will affect several of Cornell Dining’s venues, including popular locations such as Amit Bhatia Libe Café, Trillium Express and the Green Dragon Café.

According to Brown, the changes were necessary to compensate for increased supply costs from its vendors, which include Starbucks, Seattle’s Best Coffee and Ithaca Coffee Company.

“Vendors increased the cost of their supplies … ultimately raising the cost for Cornell Dining to operate coffee shops,” Brown said in an email. However, she noted that Cornell Dining raises prices only once a year, compared with commercial retailers that may change prices more often based on market conditions.

Brown also attributed the price increases to the “volatile coffee market.” She cited a CNN Money report from May 25 that showed the coffee futures market was up 95-percent over the past year. Indeed, many businesses in the industry have suffered in the current economic climate.

According to Brown, the increases were in line with price changes during previous academic years.

“In 2009, there was a general increase in coffee prices in Cornell Coffee shops. In 2010, price increases were minimal and affected only certain coffee drinks,” she said.

Students had varying reactions to the price hikes.

Eric Bastine ’12 said that, while the hike may not seem significant, the extra cost soon adds up.

“Every day I’m not going to notice it, but when it comes to the end of the semester and I want five more cups of coffee, I can’t [buy them],” he said.

Bastine said that the University is “nickel-and-diming us at every opportunity.”

“My parents are already putting so much money towards tuition, and they already have to pay so much money for the food, and the dorm … And then Cornell is piling on top of it: ‘you’re going to have to use your [Big Red Bucks] faster, and you’re going to have to end up paying us more money,’” he said.

However, Gina Cargas ’14 said she was indifferent to an increase that she characterized as modest.

“I have several cups of coffee a day at Libe and I still don’t care at all,” she said.

Brown, from Campus Life, described the price increases as a “sensitive topic,” especially in the context of the current economic climate.

“Our hope is that customers will see the value in Coffee Shop offerings and continue to frequent operations,” she said.

Original Author: David Marten