Starbucks makes a splash in the Grille

Four words have been in every returning student’s mouth: “Starbucks at the Grille!” In front of the cash register at the Grille in Batten Center, the new Starbucks options are being called out every hour. In the fall semester, there were already some coffee options from the company, but the additional drinks go beyond just hot coffee. Now, in addition to the Lighthouse’s coffee and the Sodexo cafeteria coffee, students have a third choice to boost their energy between classes or cramming for a midnight deadline. VWU’s Starbucks selections currently include traditional coffee, Hot Chocolate and White Hot Chocolate, Espressos such as Caffe’ Latte, Cappuccino, Caffe’ Mocha, Caramel Macchiato, White Chocolate Mocha and Caffe’ Americano, Iced Coffee and Frappuccinos comprising of Caramel, Mocha, Java Chip, Vanilla Bean and Strawberries Crème. The prices range from $2.25 for a tall cup to $4.95 for a venti and meal equivalent counts when purchasing the drinks when the cafeteria is closed. Unfortunately, Starbucks gift cards are not set up with the school’s system yet but Tim Lockett, general director of the Dining Services says that “it’s possible in the future.”

There have been no Starbucks baristas hired specifically for the new drinks, just student workers who were recently trained to prepare the new assortment of drinks.Because students have had to learn these new multi-step drinks, the service time usually takes a while, especially if students are waiting for their order right before class, but despite this temporary inconvenience, the lines for a drink are reasonable and constant.

VWU senior Chyenne Larkins, who works as a manager and barista at a Starbucks café commented, “I think coming from an actual store that the choices they have are extremely limited compared to what an actual Starbucks offers. I can also tell a huge difference between the iced coffee they claim is Starbucks iced coffee and the iced coffee my own store offers in several things like the taste, acidity etc. but it does seem like when I interact with people who claim to be there for coffee purposes – not the school staff – that they are pleasant and seem to try to live up to the level of customer service, or the Starbucks Experience, that barista pledge to strive for.”

The difference between the Grille’s assortment and a regular Starbucks menu is that it lacks the Teavana tea options offered at all Starbucks cafes. Lockett he explained that there are tea beverages offered at The Grille and that “we will have Tazo teas available soon. The Teavana program is not yet available to us but should be for the fall semester.” Mr. Lockett also explained that students have the possibility to pitch their food/beverage requests to the Culinary Council which is how Starbucks arrived on campus. As for seasonal drinks, such as Pumpkin Spiced Latte or Peppermint offered by the company during the fall and winter, “We are going to have most of their seasonal drinks,” Lockett said.

Until the Teavana options or Tazo teas become available, students who cannot drink coffee or are simply not coffee drinkers have little to no options at the Grille’s Starbucks; Brandon Foster, an attending junior, is one of these students, Foster said, “I would be interested in addition to our already short but needed supply of available options, we add the Starbucks refresher teas (strawberry acai in particular) and, the pink ombre drink because it adds a good variety that isn’t coffee to the menu. I can’t drink coffee so it would give me a greater variety to come to the Starbucks options here on campus.” Regarding special dietary needs for those who enjoy coffee and are vegan, vegetarian, lactose intolerant or have other sensitivities, it is worth noting that for drinks that require milk there is a variety of coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, nonfat, 2% or whole milk for students and faculty to choose from.

If the Grille aims to be competitive with respect to the other five Starbucks students could go to outside of campus, it seems they must add some alternative drinks apart from coffee. On the other hand, students that live on campus and fewer less opportunities to venture to Starbucks can finally satisfy their coffee cravings whenever he Grille is open. In a campus community often consisting of tired students, we can expect to see the Starbucks mermaid logo in many student’s hands.

Cynthia Griffin