Extended Hours Flop at Epicurean
Campus eatery fails to profit from plan to draw late-night crowd
Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 18:09
Epicurean and Co. introduced 24-hour service before finals in May in an effort to lure students onto campus late at night. But since around-the-clock operations resumed Sept. 3 after a summer hiatus, late-night patronage at Epicurean has languished.
The restaurant’s late-night hours have not been profitable, drawing no more than a few dozen customers after 2 a.m. on a typical night.
Though the decision to remain open is questionable for the restaurant and the average student spends less than $5 per visit, owner Chang Wook Chon said that he will keep Epicurean open to align with the university’s goal of bringing student social life back to campus as outlined in the 2010 Campus Plan agreement.
“If you look at the success side, it isn’t the finances,” he said. “I made a commitment. We are open 24 hours.”
While Chon estimates that the restaurant serves upward of 80 customers during peak hours between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., this number tails off after 2 a.m.
Although Chon originally said that Epicurean was losing money in a joint interview with Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services Joelle Wiese, Chon claimed in a second interview that Epicurean was breaking even. However, Wiese maintained that Epicurean is indeed losing money during its nighttime operations. Chon declined to provide the amount that Epicurean was losing and said that his business’s finances were private.
The university does not currently have any plans to recoup Epicurean’s late-night losses, as the establishment is not losing money overall.
“It’s by mutual agreement. Because we all are in the customer service business this is something that we’ve all agreed to,” Wiese said. “When you look at a business model you don’t expect to make money every single hour. We’re trying to understand what service it does provide and what are the hiccups.”
However, Auxiliary Services is willing to re-evaluate the situation with Epicurean eventually.
“I think if they say this isn’t working for us we’ll re-evaluate it,” Wiese said. “It really depends on the particulars and we just need to build up that history and that’s kind of what we’re doing now.”
Auxiliary Services and Epicurean are currently collecting data to decide how often Epicurean should operate in the future. The restaurant will remain open 24 hours through the fall semester, but changes could occur further down the road.
At this point, Wiese and Chon are unsure of whether late-night Epicurean will ever be profitable.
“It could just be where it always loses money in those nighttime hours, but overall it does provide a service, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Wiese said.
Chon maintained that the late-night hours have been successful in some ways, if not financially.
“I’ve been here a few nights, to see what kind of energy is around,” Chon said. “I think it is a success.”
The late-night eatery has yet to develop the following of nearby favorites including Eat and Joy, Quick Pita or former student favorite Tuscany Cafe, which closed in June.
“It doesn’t have that kind of tradition that a lot of other late night places like Tuscany had,” Branden Oliver (SFS ’15) said.
Cristina Fletcher (SFS ’15) was disappointed to find her food options limited on a recent late-night visit.
“We just wanted a piece of pizza, and they didn’t even have that. We decided to go elsewhere,” Fletcher said. “I’m assuming it isn’t going as well as they hoped.”
The eatery, however, remains popular with freshmen living in adjacent Darnall Hall.
“It’s more about convenience at 3 a.m.,” Darnall resident Joshua Peña (COL ’17).
The eatery also attracts medical students and staff of Georgetown MedStar Hospital, located across the street. Bridget Steuerer, a NICU nurse, noted the extended hours as a welcome change for fickle medical staff schedules.
“With unpredictable schedules, nurses and doctors usually don’t know when they will be able to eat dinner. With later hours, I don’t have to worry about bringing food,” Steuerer said.