Bagels Bring Bucks to House Grills
Your typewriter keys are Still clicking and it's going on midnight. Your stomach is growling. You want food, but a Boston blizzard rages outside.
Visit your friendly house grill--not only can you enjoy a cheesesteak in the privacy of your own house, but you can socialize at the same time.
Eight houses presently offer the convenience of a grill on weeknights. Managers of these student-run operations realize the importance of their businesses to the student stomach.
Prices at the grills typically run from $.50 for a bagel to $2.75 for a cheesesteak. Most are open Sunday through Thursday from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Located at the center of the house in the dining hall's kitchen, "The Holy Grill" is the main gathering place in Currier, grill manager Gregory S. Musselman '87 says.
Surrounded by a pool table, ping pong table, and television, the grill serves about 100 customers a night, according to Musselman. In addition to the traditional fare of hamburgers, fries, ice cream and bagels, Currier's menu includes nachos, fried egg "Grillwiches" and homemade pizza.
After the House Committee elects the managers from petitions submitted in the spring, the managers purchase the franchise from the previous year's owners. All profits go back to Currier House. "The Holy Grill" employs 12 to 15 work-study students at $5 per hour, Musselman says.
"We bought it for $1000 last spring, and we have just started to break even," says Musselman, adding that he views the 10 to 20 hours a week that the devotes to the grill as a service to the house rather than a business.
Most Currier residents pass by the grill a couple of times a night, Musselman says. "Without it there would be little opportunity to see other people."
Superior management is what sets the Dunster House grill apart from the rest, says Theodore H. Kim '85-86, one of the grill's four managers. "Dunster doesn't have a lot of people or a lot of facilities, so we really work to make the most of what we have," he says.
Though they are not allowed to keep any profits, the Dunster grill managers are paid $5 an hour--the staff of 20 to 24 people is paid $5 to $6 an hour, depending on the take that night, Kim says. After saving about $200 for next year's management, the remaining funds will be used to buy food and equipment for the grill. The rest of the money will be returned to the House Committee as a gift.
Crippled by poor ventilation, the Dunster "grill" does not serve any grilled items, relying on items ranging from pepperoni pizza to milkshakes.
Movies are shown daily on a big-screen T.V. at the Eliot House grill. Manager Hal Watson '87 cited 48 Hours as a "cheesesteak movie," as opposed to a "bagel movie" like Terms of Endearment.
"The grill provides more of a social than a financial function, and God knows Harvard needs that right now with the new alcohol policy," Watson says.
The Eliot House grill stopped serving beer this year, breaking a 15-year tradition--Watson says that beer's absence has had a definite impact on sales.
At Eliot House, all profits made go directly to the workers, who make $15 a night.
Open seven days a week, Eliot's is the only grill that offers a delivery service. "We have had no problems with it so far, just a lot of stairs to climb," manager Lisa J. Blair '87 says.
"I probably learn more from this than I do my classes," says Arthur J. Murphy '87, one of four Economics majors who run "The Underground," Kirkland House's grill.
The Kirkland House grill is the only grill that allows its customers to charge food on weekly tabs. It is also one of the biggest on campus, seating over a hundred people, and frequented by 50 to 100 students a night.
The Underground grosses $500-$800 a week, Murphy says. Manned by only the four managers and three others, each person is paid $20 a night.
Murphy says he will have no problems selling his share in the grill, since working there "looks really good on a resume. The hands-on experience looks impressive."
Serving the widest variety of food, the Leverett House Grill offers frappes, hash browns, chips, peanuts, sodas, juice, and onion rings in addition to standard grilled snacks.
"I know I have to be on my toes to keep everything running smoothly," says Richard J. Lannon '86, one of Leverett House's two grill managers. "Our personnel bends over backwards to do a good job. The girls [who work at the grill] dress up on Wednesday nights. It helps bring in more business," he says.
Netting about $1300 a week, the Leverett House grill pays its employees $5 an hour. "We lost money for three straight weeks during midterms, but generally we make a profit," Lannon says.
Currently undergoing a transformation from a bagel shop to a grill, the Lowell House grill celebrated its grand opening on November 22. The grill manager, Philip J. Brittan '88, was hired by the House Committee for $60 a week.
"The entrepreneurial spirit was raging within me," Brittan says. "It's been very stimulating so far. There is nothing regular about setting up a grill."
"I'm going to try and create a certain atmospere that makers it a nice place to go and socialize--something with character, rather than just another food shop," Brittan says.
The Lowell House grill is still in its experimental stage as far as its menu and hours go. "We will definitely have competitive prices. "We're going to base our prices on those of other grills," Brittan says.
"We serve most foods that can be prepared by a grill, a blender, or an oven," says Martin J. Katz '87, manager of the Mather House grill. He adds, "If people request things I try to stay open to their ideas."
Mather's grill sells Pinocchio's pizza in addition to frappes, burgers, cheesesteaks, hot dogs, milkshakes, bagels, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Sodas can be bought from a nearby vending machine owned by the House Committee.
This year, the grill will take telephone orders and feature daily discount specials.
Katz--who supplied all the money to stock the grill without any help from the House Committee--says, "It's hard to tell if I've made a profit. Essentially, I've whittled down two-to three-hundred dollars worth of debt to myself."
He adds, "I will come out with $20 to $30 a week profit if things go well," he added.
The grill's nine employees earn $4 an hour plus free food while they work. They receive a 10 percent discount on other nights, Katz says.
"Our grill seems to be of a smaller scale than other House grills, but we have kept our commitment to quality and a broad range of food on our menu," Katz says. He estimates the grill serves 50 to 60 customers a night.
"The Quincy House grill is definitely the funnest grill to hang out at," Philip L. Russo '86 says.
Russo, one of the grill's three managers, says they had to go through an informal bidding process to run the grill. Two years ago prospective owners had to submit a one page essay on "Why Food Is Good," Russo says.
Located in a central spot on the ground floor of Quincy House, the grill serves about 100 people a night, Russo estimates. Though equipped with a picnic table and some sofas, "seating isn't the forte," Russo says.
Each of the three managers put up $200 to set up the grill last spring. They also received a $400 loan from the House Committee, Russo says. Along with a food allowance, the 10 to 12 employees and three managers of the grill get paid $18 per night.
"Last spring we did fairly well. We used to sell beer," Russo says. "We had to stop this fall and took an immediate beating in sales." He adds that, so far this fall, the grill has not been making a profit.
Still in its planning stage, the Winthrop House grill will not be as extensive as other House grills, manager Mark A. Goodman '85-'86 says.
The grill will serve "yuppie food" rather than the traditional burgers and dogs, Goodman says.
"It really smells bad when you grill things down there," Goodman says. "If you went to get a burger, you would smell like a burger for the rest of the week," he says.
In hopes of getting two new refrigerators, Goodman plans on serving foods that can be served cold, like salads and bagels.
The question of whether Winthrop House will have a grill this year "depends on whether I get my act together." Goodman says. "It would be a fun thing to do. Most people says it would be a pain in the ass unless I had a lot of people [working for me]," he says.
The Cabot House nightclub "Cookin'" was originally called "Cookin' at the Grill," president Michael W. Rabow '87 says.
Now completely independent of the grill, the nightclub features live bands, as well as occasional comedy acts, every Friday night. "This year the acts are finding us," Rabow says.
The admission fee is $2.99 for a regular night. Once inside, students can eat or drink as much as they want. Appetizers such as chips and dip, nachos, and chicken wings are usually served.
Originally a jazz nightclub, Cookin' now also offers rock and folk music. Last November Cookin' hosted its first ever reggae act. The comedy group "On Thin Ice" has been one of the most popular acts, Rabow says.
Neither the staff nor the performers at Cookin' get paid. "People do it not for money, but for the exciting nightclub atmosphere," Rabow says.
Last year the Cabot House nightclub took in $6000 of revenue, Rabow says. The money was used to buy audio equipment, chairs, tables, and stage lights. The small net profit left was used to start up the nightclub this fall, a process which took a solid month, he says.
"The most important thing I've learned is how much there is for single students to contribute to Cookin'," Rabow says. "To make it as special and constantly changing as we want it takes increasing energy all the time."