By Tamara Grbusic & Nate Powell-Palm
In an effort to attract a broader student body and perhaps even earn some profits, the staff at Bob’s is hard at work with ideas to innovate and update the campus hub, including novelties on the menu, extended hours and a variety special events.
“Well the menu up there includes a few things we had last semester but the ‘Bitch face,’ with the cucumber, is really good. We also have cliff bars, luna bars…the big thing is that we’re open from 8 to 5,” said Claire Humes ’11, an employee at Bob’s.
One of the reasons for the changes is that Bob’s did not have good credit history in the past.
“Bob’s is 12,000 bucks in debt and basically every semester Grinnell talks about shutting us down, but they basically forgive the debt,” Humes said. “A big thing is that a lot of people come here to study and don’t buy anything, but we’re hoping that by expanding our menu and everything else we sell, we’ll hopefully bring in more revenue.”
These new menu improvements include cinnamon rolls, ice cream sandwiches, cliff bars, compound offers such as “Cupcake, coffee and a condom for $4”—a SHIC/Bob’s collaboration—and potentially some new breakfast possibilities.
“We’re going to start marketing breakfast items more specifically,” said Margaret Allen ’12, the manager of Bob’s. “I mean, we are never going to be an A&M because of the restrictions on what we can and cannot make here, but we are trying to bring in this brunch kind of thing, at least on the weekends.”
When talking about the menu innovations, Allen described how the menu will hopefully entice more people looking to grab a bite while hitting the books.
“We have fresh cinnamon rolls every weekend, we are looking into having some fresh juices, we’re going to have fresh cupcakes too…you know, just specialty items, like getting some pretzels, so you can sub out pretzel stuff with bagel stuff!” Allen said. “Say you wanted pizza bagel, but without the bagel – you can have pizza pretzel, or lesley on a pretzel…maybe we’ll bring in gourmet popcorn, you know, with chocolate or caramel…we are just trying to take everything we have a step further.”
Much of the impetus for change came from Allen.
“Most of the ideas came from me,” Allen said. “I thought about what students are interested in and what they want, since Bob’s entire consumer body is student based. It starts with basic instinct, thinking, ‘What do I want late at nights? Well, I want a crab rangoon!’ ‘Would I take a free condom—yes!’ ‘Do I think cupcakes are delicious—of course!’”
On the other hand, turning a profit still does not look like a strong possibility.
“It is not a mystery that Bob’s has not done well financially, especially considering current economic situation. We’re basically trying not to accumulate that much debt, mostly because of our student workers. I mean, if we earn 40 bucks a night we’re not going to get even close to making a profit, but our debt is not as significant as it has been in the past,” Allen said. “We don’t want to rob anybody, we’re students too, we don’t want to hike up the prices! We want to set them up at a fair level where you can come here and get something to eat, while we get enough to sustain our business….We are just trying to find an equilibrium level.”
Perhaps most importantly, you can now hang out in Bob’s on the weekends, as expanded hours and special events are another part of Bob’s transformation.
“That also started from me, I always wanted to come here on weekends because I like the coffee shop atmosphere,” Allen said. “You don’t want to go to the library on the weekends, you go there every day, you don’t want to go to the Grill because it’s….too bright and…loud, and our coffee is better than theirs. Bob’s is really relaxed, you can talk to your friends and hang out, it’s very chill.”
When asked about special events, Allen said there’s a full roster planned.
“Actually, we only have special events. Every event at Bob’s is special,” Allen said. “No, really, we are trying to bring different student groups here. For instance, SAs can come here and give us their funding and we can organize their study breaks—which we have done before and I think is really exciting. We are just exploring the grounds as the middleman for a lot of different groups! Open mic nights, good. Stand up nights, really cool! There may be theater nights here, showing films, even a play…”
Traffic at Bob’s has increased steadily and apparently the cinnamon rolls and nachos are great. Next time you are hungry on a Thursday night, or need a new place to hang out on weekend, you have another option to consider.