The aroma of freshly ground coffee beans, warm cherry scones and the tunes of relaxing music fill the air each morning in Klehm Hall at Eastern Illinois University.
The appealing smells and sounds are not coming from a break room, but from the dedication and determination of EIU students learning the ins and outs of operating their own coffee shop as part of hospitality management program.
Student manager Tara Page said she wants the coffee shop, called The Café, to be a place where professors and staff escape to grab a cup of coffee and chat with fellow colleagues.
“We want the coffee shop to be a getaway for them,” she said. “We want them to unwind from their hectic, busy schedules.”
On any given day, Page teaches fellow students how to use the espresso maker, cook pastries and clean the café area. She organizes student’s work schedules, keeps ingredients on hand and ensures the shop is open for business Monday through Thursday. Sometimes her job includes explaining to students the difference between a cappuccino, latte, mocha and an Americano; sometimes she will even leave a cheat sheet in front of the machine for their guidance.
Page, a senior family and consumer sciences major with a hospitality management option, is working at the café as part of her internship requirement, and dreams of one day working in the restaurant business.
Jim Painter, a professor of family and consumer sciences, said the café gives students an opportunity for hands-on learning they would not experience in a classroom.
“In some industries, students obtain the knowledge from the classroom and are successful in the real world. But in other disciplines, like the restaurant business, students need hands-on experience like the café,” Painter said. “Now our students can tell an employer they ran their own café.”
Painter designed a class, called “Cafeteria and Catering,” to go along with the coffee shop. Students there run the café and prepare a lunch for faculty and staff who make reservations. The class will be an additional hands-on learning experience for students interested in food service management.
Since 2007, the family and consumer sciences department has offered another hands-on class called “Commercial Quantity Food Production,” where students operate a full-service restaurant called Pantera. In that class, students learn how to run and manage a restaurant where they prepare a menu and serve food to actual patrons with guidance from professional chefs.
All food prepared in The Café and Pantera is served inside a commercial kitchen that meets health code regulations, Painter said. Students, community members and the general public are welcome to stop by for a cup of coffee at The Café, but they want the seating lounge area reserved for the faculty and staff.
The Café opened last semester under the direction of Painter and another student manager, Chris Starbird, who still plays an active role in the coffee shop.
Starbird, a junior family and consumer sciences major, said he loves the culture of coffee shops, and one day would love to own his own shop and café.
He envisions The Café becoming a ‘third place’ for professors and staff at EIU. Professors can meet at the shop, and casually chat over a cup of coffee.
The concept of the third place was once described by Howard Schultz, chief executive officer of Starbucksin his book “Pour Your Heart Into It,” Starbird said.
The Café is open 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday in Room 1414 in Klehm Hall during the spring semester. Patrons of The Café can pay with cash, check or debit cards.
Some of the items on the menu include made-to order coffees, tea, hot chocolate and homemade pastries with gluten-free options. Check out the menu and prices here.