A cheap sugar rush beneath harsh neon lights or the manufactured coziness fostered by easy-listening music: does a student choose the former at Dunkin’ Donuts or at the latter at Starbucks?
Coffee is a personal thing, from the celebratory iced latte to the hasty black coffee on a midterm eve. Where we choose to buy our coffee says a lot about us; for some, it’s a conscious brand decision, and for others it’s simply another cup of caffeine. In Norris, Northwestern students no longer have a choice.
This year Northwestern Dining changed Dunkin’ Donuts’ closing time from 8 p.m. to 4 p.m. due to a lack of customers. The store received two percent of its daily sales in these hours, said Director of Northwestern Dining Services Ken Fields.
“It was a very minimal amount,” Fields said. “It really wasn’t a good use of the staff labor and so we didn’t feel like we were really taking something away. It wasn’t being adequately utilized.”
He said lower traffic counts after 4 p.m. in Norris caused the early closure, likely due to students returning to residence halls or off-campus housing for meals. Fields said that a lot of Dunkin’s sales are related to the meal plans – students mostly use equivalency meals, points and Cat Cash there.
“I think they’re more cost-conscious,” Fields said. “There’s not a huge percentage of their sales that is cash and credit card.”
But if students are so frugal, then why did so many of them opt for Norbucks?
Jake Holland, a Weinberg freshman, is a loyal Starbucks advocate. He said he chooses the pricier coffee because he feels the taste is superior.
“They’re both coffee shops, but the coffees they serve are very different,” Holland said. “I feel like with Dunkin’s coffee, you can taste that it’s not as good of quality. It still gives you that sugar rush that you need sometimes but it doesn’t taste as good.”
As many students can attest, the vibe of a study spot is crucial. Holland also thinks that Starbucks’ surrounding area is a better fit for homework.
“[I think it’s] the fact that there’s a whole contained area for Starbucks as opposed to just a general dining area for Dunkin and the other restaurants,” Holland said. “I feel like that makes the atmosphere at Starbucks a lot more inviting and conducive to work.”
Fields attributes the attachment to Starbucks to the overall brand recognition. He thinks it’s what compels students to spend more, comparable to spending more on education.
“It just has the brand recognition. It’s stronger than Dunkin’. It’s not the cheapest place to go, you can get an education a lot of places, like a cup of coffee,” Fields said. “It’s the prestige of being a Northwestern student that brings you here, and that degree carries a lot of weight for you once you graduate.”
Despite Starbucks’ high turnout and marketing savvy, nighttime Dunkin’ fans ache for what once was, and what could have been.
Alexandra Somerville, a Weinberg freshman, experienced the evening closure for the first time when she experienced a sudden yearning for Dunkin’ and left the Starbucks line. She recalled making the trek back upstairs and “reluctantly” ordering a skinny vanilla latte.
“I would get Dunkin’ over Starbucks almost every time if it was open. At home I almost always go to Dunkin,” Somerville said. “I don’t think that the brand of coffee should matter at all, especially if it’s four dollars more. But to each their own, I guess.”
Jerry Joo, a Weinberg senior, took the loss personally.
“I am very upset. You might even say I’m furious,” Joo said. “I think if there are two businesses together in one building they ought to be able to compete with each other on equal terms.”
Joo said that Dunkin’, unlike Starbucks, caters to the common man.
“I think [Dunkin] has more of a working class appeal,” Joo said. “It’s less basic than Starbucks. Starbucks is associated with the pumpkin chai latte-sipping, yoga pants-wearing crowd whereas Dunkin’ Donuts is just for whomever.“