One semester in, Cap Bar changes felt by all

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Junior Cap Bar worker Mica Stephens hands a customer a muffin during her shift. (Photo by Marquel Plavan)

The sight is familiar to anyone acquainted with the University of Dallas campus: five rectangular mirrors against navy blue tile, an oblong black counter, and a cumbersome—yet powerful—espresso machine, all staffed by a cheerful Cap Bar worker or two.

Yet this comforting view, a bastion of UD tradition, has weathered more than a few changes in the past six months  For instance, it has added a cooler housing the likes of the super-health drink kombucha, San Pellegrino, and hummus.. Payment methods have diversified, shifting to declining balance, debit and credit card, or cash, rather than cash only.. The culmination of these developments, according to senior semi-retired Cap Bar Manager Mary Kate Elfelt, has been a hectic, less service-oriented atmosphere. Elfelt currently only takes the shifts of those who can’t find someone else to cover for them.

Elfelt chalks up the transformation of the Cap bar to changes in payment methods. “Now that customers can pay with credit, debit cards or their declining balance, the whole atmosphere of the Cap Bar has changed,” she said.

What once was a spot for quiet socialization and studying is now a constant bustle of activity.

While both Elfelt and sophomore worker Jonathan Gontarz agree this sharp increase in business  benefits the Cap Bar, Elfelt they expressed concern for the toll it exacts on the baristas. “The relationship with the customer is totally lost. It’s hard to give a customer good service when you’re in a frenzy behind the bar…it can get overwhelming.”

This frenzy has negatively affected Cap Bar workers in other ways.

In addition to disgruntlement at the departure from tradition, “UD students are not the most adaptable,” said Elfelt.

Elfelt also feels the lack of training for new student workers has caused a decrease in attention to detail.

Gontarz hints at a shift in worker morale because of the change in management.

“Everybody here is a little concerned, which is natural because management is completely new,” Gontarz said. Additionally, communication alterations have created a more impersonal relationship between management and workers than before.

Gontarz stated that there in a greater emphasis on electronic communication like email and text to ensure the correct logging of hours, which has made the relationship with management more impersonal.

“It’s the opposite of what you’d expect,” Gontarz said. ‘You would think that with more reminders about who has to make the cold brew or logging your hours there would be a closer relationship, but I don’t think that’s the case.”

Lastly, Elfelt stressed the need for electronic tips. “The job has become stressful, overwhelming, and frustrating at times, but the pay does not outweigh this. If the school gets around to figuring out electronic tips for us like they said they would do last year, we could be much better compensated.”  

Executive Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs Dr. John Plotts clarified student concerns of an “Aramark takeover,” stating, “UD owns and operates the Cap Bar.” Aramark provides a Point of Service sales computer which enables the use of credit cards.

Plotts approached Aramark regarding the installation of this technology at the behest of Student Government. “In reality there is very little change,” Plotts said.

In addition to facilitating the use of credit cards, Aramark has taken on some of Event Scheduling Coordinator Kelly O’Neal’s duties such as stocking, since Aramark provides lower buying prices, according to Plotts.

Both Elfelt and Plotts note the importance of O’Neal’s transformed role.

“Now [O’Neal] can focus on other needs at the University,” said Plotts.

For Elfelt, part of this includes coordinating more events on campus, thus increasing traffic of potential customers to the Cap Bar.

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