Bookstore, Dining Services Reviews Completed
Two independent consulting firms have completed separate reviews of the NMU Bookstore and Dining Services. Both recommend that operations housed in the University Center be moved to a more central location.
“There’s been a shift in density in terms of where people eat and where they spend most of their time,” said Andre Mallie (Dining Services). “What used to be the center of campus is no longer the center of campus. Both recommendations recognize this and suggest that we create a synergy between the bookstore and dining operations so that they feed off each other. Retail outlets need traffic to be successful and there would be more traffic in a different location.”
Mallie said the increased revenue potential from moving the bookstore would help drive down its personnel expense ratio – personnel expenses expressed as a percentage of total sales. According to the consultant’s executive summary, the ratio has been above the industry average for the past four fiscal years, mainly because of the fringe benefits cost. But Mallie said there are no plans to privatize the bookstore at this time.
Other recommendations include increasing textbook/course materials market share; improving textbook/course materials inventory management; and developing and implementing superior customer service standards.
Mallie said the consultant’s report validated the bookstore’s value and performance in key areas. It generated nearly $4.9 million in sales in FY2006, with textbooks and course materials comprising about 69 percent of that total. “NMU also has the best ratio of used books in the nation – more than 50 percent compared with the nationwide average of 25-30 percent,” he added. “That’s a benefit for students. The staff is also regarded as friendly and helpful.”
The Dining Services summary includes the following recommendations:
●Open a new juice/smoothie kiosk in the PEIF
●In lieu of Cat Trax, offer an Emporium at Quad II that will feature a couple of food platforms in addition to retail items typically found in a convenience store and provide additional gathering space for students
●Develop a Panera Bread-style concept in C.B. Hedgcock that would complement Temaki & Tea’s relatively limited menu and offer food choices that ranked highest in a campus survey (soups, breads, salad bar, etc.)
●Create a mini food court in the LRC with a grill and fry station providing daytime and late-night service, a wood-fire pizza oven and pasta station, an international station and a reading café environment created by a reconfigured Starbucks and the relocation of the bookstore (additional seating would be required)
●Revise the focus of the University Center by perhaps renting additional space to Marquette General Hospital or providing minimal dining services ranging from a small convenience store with grab-and-go items to a fast, casual restaurant with healthy items prepared to order
●Consider an upscale waiter-service restaurant and ballroom in Lee Hall if private funding is secured to renovate the building into a home for the NMU Foundation, Alumni Association, Heritage Center and NMU Club
“We are working on the juice/smoothie bar for the PEIF this fall,” Mallie said. “It will be a kiosk, not a permanent structure, unless it goes well and we explore that option down the road.
“To take all of these actions would be quite an endeavor, but if you look at the traffic and financial data, the recommendations make sense and would need to be coordinated with the university’s master plan. It’s important to have an outside entity review operations periodically. These consultants have no connections with vendors in their respective industries. They are the best in the country in their specialized areas and I hope that we can eventually implement their suggestions.”