By Greg Laudani, Staff Writer
Union Court has decided to cut back its hours.
Starting Dec. 1, the Memorial Union Building food court will be open Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
The establishment, operated by UNH Dining Services, is making the change after seeing an unfortunate trend in business this semester: a lack of late-afternoon customers.
Richard LeHoullier is the retail manager of Union Court, Wildcatessen, Philbrook Café, Albert’s, UNH Dairy Bar, Zeke’s Café and Cornerstone 1926. LeHoullier made it clear when asked why the restaurant is shifting from its regular 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. hours.
“We had to reduce the hours because of the lack of volume,” LeHoullier said. “There’s just nobody in here after like 3:30. There’s not a lot of business.”
LeHoullier pointed out some reasons why he believes business at Union Court is struggling right now. One of the reasons he mentioned is due to a coffee monopoly in New England.
“One of the big factors is Dunkin’s,” LeHoullier said. “If you walk into Union Court any morning, you’re going to see trashcans full of Dunkin’ bags, Dunkin’ cups, Dunkin’ this, Dunkin’ that. Anybody can walk through here in the afternoon and see the Dunkin’ Donuts overflowing in the trash and no business going into Union Court.”
Since its MUB opening in fall 2011, Dunkin’ Donuts has done a number on Union Court. The popular brand, which is very familiar to most New Englanders, attracts lines that block the building’s entrance most days.
LeHoullier said he is happy that students have a place they are so drawn to on campus. However, he also described how Dunkin’ Donuts is not doing Union Court any favors.
“The good news is that students are getting what they want,” LeHoullier said. “They love Dunkin’s, we all know that. So it’s in a sense fortunate that students get to buy their product, but then they come here to Union Court, and they eat their [Dunkin’] food, they drink their beverage and they use the trash receptacles. It doesn’t benefit Union Court whatsoever.”
While more students are choosing Dunkin’ Donuts in the morning, business at Union Court makes most of its money between 12 and 2 p.m.
It is often difficult to find an open table during early afternoons when Union Court is packed with people.
Students being able to use meal swipes helps generate solid business for Union Court at lunchtime up until 1:30 p.m.
“We have a lot of students using the meal exchange to bring down the crowding over at Holloway Commons,” LeHoullier said. “And thankfully we have that traffic. That helps keep us in business for what we are doing right now.”
Swipes can only be used to pay for Union Court meals Monday-Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. And according to LeHoullier, business goes “right down” after swipes are no longer allowed.
A lack of customers often leaves Union Court’s employees with little to do. LeHoullier sympathized with his staff as he described how boring it is to work in a restaurant with no customers.
“If you walk by [Union Court] at 4 [p.m.], you would see we have our staff, but there’s really nothing to do but stand there,” LeHoullier said.
“They are just standing there and not being productive because there’s just nobody there, but we need to have someone standing there.”
LeHoullier recognizes his staff is “bored to tears” when all there is to do is sweep the floor and wash the glass window that fronts Union Court.
He took the input from employees and said he knew it was a time to cut down the afternoon hours.
“When you’ve got the staff telling you it is really slow, let’s go ahead and make that move,” LeHoullier said. “We just need to stop and evaluate where we’re heading. We at least want to make it a breakeven enterprise and then continue evaluating how we can bring in more customers.”
Union Court cut back from last semester in hopes of increasing productivity. The restaurant was open until 10 p.m. during points of last semester. Now open until 7 p.m., that has not worked as Dining Services had planned.