When 2,600-student Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania was building a new athletic center, the idea of a juice bar seemed an appealing way to satisfy student cravings at that location. Director of Dining Services Gary Brautigam spoke to FSD about the development of the department’s new juice bar, what they learned from a soft opening and how to keep the menu mix sellable.
How did the idea for the juice bar come about?
It began in the initial planning for the new athletic center. We thought might be a good idea to have a juice bar/healthy concept there. We called it The Dive, which is so named after a now defunct snack bar that at the time was located underneath the old pool—yes, the pool was on the second floor. After trying to come up with new clever names for the “new” spot The Dive was restored to life but only by name. The location overlooks the new pool on one side and the exercise area on the other, separated by glass. There are 56 seats in the new location. Now that winter sports have begun, the customers are also using it as a concession stand.
How did you develop the menu?
A juice bar is difficult to define because it can be so many different things. Once we started talking juice and healthy beverages we knew that in that particular location on campus it would definitely lead into food. We started looking at a menu that would include salads, fresh fruit, yogurt parfaits, healthier sandwiches and health bars. Besides juice we knew that the students would request everything so we opened it up with a complete selection of Coke products from their healthy waters to basics and teas. We also included an iced coffee choice. The main component has been the fruit smoothies. Our fruit smoothies are from a local company that provides the unit and fresh fruit bases. It allows us to make many different types of smoothies to which we can add the protein powders, weight loss powders and all those different enhancements. Then we also offer the basic blender smoothies as specials. So if we get fresh peaches in, we’re going to have fresh peach smoothies. We’re also juicing fruits and vegetables ourselves. We do vegetable drinks as well, although those don’t sell as well
Why did you decide to go with a local smoothie brand rather than a national chain?
After researching and looking at going to a national branded concept, it seemed to us that we’d be able to widen our menu effort by doing it ourselves. We could bring in the Coca-Cola products. We could bring in our own choice of smoothie and we could, as we have already, enrich the menu by including breakfast sandwiches, pizzas and always looking at different daily specials We have a sushi program on campus and we send our daily sushi to The Dive also. The sushi has been selling very well. We use the Royal Smoothie Co. concept with the BlendTec portion control system.
What were some of the biggest challenges involved with developing this facility?
I think the biggest challenge has been marketing it to get the kids to know it is down there. We had a soft opening in October. It was so soft that it didn’t do a whole lot for us. The soft opening was meant to just say, “Hey, look what was built down here.” I think we may have been a surprise component to people who came down. We were actually discovered during that soft opening. No matter how much we talked about it a lot of people did not know what The Dive was. Since our soft opening in October, the numbers have grown as more kids are discovering The Dive. It’s been mostly word of mouth. We have advertised it on campus through some posters and our campus newspaper.
What advice would you give to other operators who might want to look at a similar concept?
Since everyone has come back from holiday, our numbers have increased from 20 per day on our soft opening to now exceeding 200 per day. So it’s a well-received concept. No matter how hard you want to lean toward healthy items, the most common choices are still going to be the pizzas and egg sandwiches. You have to be flexible. You can’t say we’re opening up a juice bar and just stick with juicing spinach. You have to know that they do want these smoothies, they do want Coca-Cola products and some of them want hot dogs at the concession stand. The healthy component is there and should be, as well as other choices.