Franklin & Marshall College Dining (Diplomat Dining) recently launched a new partnership with local micro-roaster Square One Coffee.
The partnership made sense to both Lancaster, Pa., groups, with Diplomat Dining already having several local partnerships with produce vendors, Hershey’s Chocolate, and Harrisburg Dairies among others, and Taylor Mihaljevic, Square One Coffee customer service representative, commenting that Square One has been working to expand its reach to other local businesses.
“We’ve been looking to expand our wholesale program – that was our main mission at the end of last year and beginning of this year,” Mihaljevic said. “We recently bought our second coffee roaster to fill that need as well.”
With a shop in downtown Lancaster for the past 17 years, Mihaljevic said they wanted to see what other opportunities were in the community.
“Naturally we were thinking, what are some of the staples in our community?” she said. “Franklin & Marshall was definitely on the top of that list.”
When Square One reached out to Diplomat Dining, they found the managers there had already been thinking of the partnership as well, and both felt the partnership would be beneficial not only to each other, but most importantly to the customers.
“We really try to partner with local as much as we can,” Operations Manager Erik Kessler said. “It’s a great way to be part of the community. Also with Square One, we knew the product, and knew what we were getting. Plus, the human initiatives that Square One has are important to students.”
Square One has a first-hand connection to its coffee bean farmers. Mihaljevic talked about the farm in Nicaragua whose crop they’ve been purchasing for the past 6 years, as well as a farm community in Honduras where they started a coffee farm three years ago.
“We know these families. We’ve met them. In December, I was in Honduras. We were on the farm,” Mihaljevic said. “It's important to us to pay premium prices for coffee and build long-term relationships with our farmers. Coffee's journey from seed to cup is a beautiful process, and we are excited to share that with our customers."
Mihaljevic added that 100 percent of the proceeds from the Honduras coffee goes back to the farm. Sales of another product, Columbia for a Cause, allows the company to donate $1 from every 5-pound bag to a local non-profit that rotates about every month.
And being a smaller company means that Square One can spend more time focusing on the quality of their product. They have a large educational component to their business. Part of this is to help train local businesses in barista skills.
“These classes help empower other people to do the best they can,” Mihaljevic said. “They’re doing things so that they can make more money and have a sustainable business and empower their employees. Having a career in coffee is something that’s possible and it can be something more than just the stereotype - it should be more celebrated.”
Additionally Square One’s education lab focuses on ensuring the coffee they’re serving is the best possible product.
“We have a coffee sorter machine that takes roasted coffee and spits out a range of 1 to 5 percent of any miscolored or deformed beans,” Mihaljevic said. “That is a huge extra step we want to go to make sure the consistency and quality of product is best it can be.”
Diplomat Dining is offering Square One products at Blue Line and Flavors. These products include the Honduras coffee, from which 100 percent of the proceeds go back to the community, as well as other rotating options such as their Nicaragua coffee, Candy Bar espresso/drip, Deluminator extra dark roast, Thaddeus espresso blend and Dark and Stormy decaf. Additionally, Flavors is serving the Columbia for a Cause coffees.
Carisha Peters, Blue Line Café manager, attended training at Square One, and then the company’s trainer came to Diplomat Dining to train their baristas.
“The employees were happy about it, and they like that there are precise measurements and recipes,” Peters said.
She added that the feedback from students even after only a couple days of serving Square One coffee has been fantastic.
“We have students that come in every day now because we have Square One,” Peters said. “We’ve gotten really good feedback about the Honduras coffee.”
Now that Square One has gone through Sodexo’s process to be an approved vendor, their first priority has been to get Diplomat Dining up and running with their products, but next they are interested in seeing what other Sodexo partnerships are out there to help others support local vendors.
Tiffany Peden is a regional communications manager with Sodexo Universities.