Business ‘stabilizes’ in Den

Clarion, Pa.- With an arrow on the wall pointing to The Den’s main counter, the phrase “hand-crafted, day-changing, crave-curing tastiness” beckons Clarion University students to eat the Denny’s brand of fresh sandwiches and other cuisine during their college days and weekends.

Now that a month has passed with the new establishments in the Suites on Main South, sales have begun to stabilize over the past couple weeks, allowing for trends that may influence how Clarion dining directs The Den and Starbucks in future semesters. 

The general consensus seems to be that it is still  too early to make any decisions regarding changes in marketing, operating hours and integration within the community for the eateries and CU Store.

Senior Director of Dining Services Jeffrey MacTaggart was clear in saying there is “not a set number” in terms of sales figures that will tell them to change anything with The Den.

A Chartwells employee of The Den takes a student’s order after he passes by the sign that reads “hand-crafted, day-changing, crave-curing tastiness.”
A Chartwells employee of The Den takes a student’s order after he passes by the sign that reads “hand-crafted, day-changing, crave-curing tastiness.”

“The community’s very important to the school,” said MacTaggart about the new eateries that are now a fixture of Main Street business.  Residents of the public are coming in largely during the daytime hours of the 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. schedule for The Den. “Each day, we get a few more people in the public,” said MacTaggart about the appeal of the Denny’s brand.

More parking opportunities will be available after the demolition of Wilkinson and Nair Halls. These are planned to be removed by the start of the fall 2016 semester.

For the students on campus, MacTaggart noted, The Den is supposed to distinguish itself from the Denny’s brand with a fun and jovial atmosphere.  The Den is “geared towards students and going after Generation X,” said MacTaggart.

The focus for The Den and Starbucks is still to appeal to the student body, yet getting business from the public is also a positive for Clarion dining.  Students provide a majority of the business; after a five o’clock rush hour for dinner, both The Den and Starbucks are seeing successful evening sales even near The Den’s closing time at 11 p.m.

MacTaggart cited staying open later a possibility for the fall semester and beyond.  The new and moved businesses in the Suites on Main will need statistics from an entire semester before deciding to change anything.  After gaining the knowledge necessary and a look at the spring’s sales ratios, “we’ll go where the business is,” said MacTaggart.

Chartwells employees at The Den in the Suites on Main South prepare food for customers.
Chartwells employees at The Den in the Suites on Main South prepare food for customers.

Some of the early success for The Den was chalked up to its convenient location on campus, especially for residents of the new Suites on Main.  Also, to train the Chartwells staff at The Den in Clarion, Denny’s employees from around the nation came in to show how a Den is operated like the others across the United States in college campuses including Florida State University and the University of Arizona.

The Den in Clarion University is, however, the first to be a “brick and mortar” establishment of its kind. MacTaggart mentioned other schools including Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which will be observing business to consider if they would like a Den of their own.

“[Starbucks] has done some quirky things this semester,” said MacTaggart.  Daytime sales have dropped compared to its old location beneath Eagle Commons, but evening sales have increased.  MacTaggart is confident that Starbucks and The Den will get more consistent business once students have fully figured out their everyday commutes between classes.

Of the three businesses in the Suites on Main South, the Clarion University Store has experienced the least amount of change.  The initial book rush turned out a normal amount of students according to CU Store Team Member Ellie Zaber.

“A lot of kids knew we were moving,” said Zaber, explaining neither a significant increase nor decrease in book sales.

The move out of the Gemmell Student Complex began soon after the fall semester ended, and University Store employees are still unpacking merchandise and apparel for students to browse and buy.

Team Member Lori Henry noted that being adjacent to Starbucks was nice and that students should continue to visit the CU Store for new types of apparel that will be coming in throughout the semester.  Henry also suggests to keep an eye out for Follett’s emails regarding store sales and deals that will be offered sporadically throughout the spring.

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