One of Thought into Action’s most recent initiatives, orchestrated by juniors Jay Lincoln and Andrew Mazen, involves bringing Moe’s Southwest Grill to campus.
Thought into Action is Colgate’s entrepreneurial initiative, which encourages a select group of passionate students to implement their business initiatives under the mentorship of alumni and parents. Past projects include GateSwap, created in 2012 by juniors Gabe Zetter and Rob Carroll, and Bikes To Go, created in 2013 by sophomore Andrew Horn.
“The idea was borne from countless afternoons in the COOP, craving good, quick Mexican,” Lincoln said.
Last spring, a survey was distributed to the student body in order to gauge preliminary interest.
“The response was unprecedented,” Lincoln said. “Over 1,100 students responded to the survey. Colgate’s surveys generally only receive a 5-12 percent response rate from the entire student body. We got almost 40 percent. When we reported that statistic to the administration, jaws dropped.”
The two suggested the Cutting Edge Bistro as the site of the new dining option, calling the current space “severely underutilized.” According to Mazen and Lincoln, 80 percent of respondents reported they never visited the Edge; however, when offered the option of a Moe’s franchise in the space, 90 percent said they would go at least once a week.
“George Murray and Joanne Borfitz, who run Sodexo’s Colgate Dining operations, both indicated that the Edge usage dilemma had not been resolved [and] that this was an intriguing, clearly student-backed possibility,” Lincoln recently wrote in an update about the project on the Thought Into Action website.
Though Sodexo has an exclusive right to all dining services up the hill, Moe’s has an agreement with the company that allows its operation on all Sodexo-run campuses. The restaurant would, in theory, operate from lunch until late night, accepting Colgate’s meal plan, cash and credit.
Despite the strong student interest, others have voiced concerns about the potential competition Moe’s would pose to local businesses, specifically La Iguana in downtown Hamilton.
“La Iguana is a well established brand and has loyal clientele, ranging from alumni to students to Hamilton residents,” Mazen wrote in the Thought into Action blog series.
According to Mazen, there were two distinct differences between the two establishments: the atmosphere and the menu.
“Moe’s is a quick-serve establishment while La Iguana is a sit-down restaurant where families, groups and others can enjoy a wide variety of cuisine,” Mazen said. “Moe’s specializes in burritos, quesadillas, tacos and burrito bowls. La Iguana has a different range of meal options, from hanger steak to salmon.”
In September, Mazen and Lincoln reported that contact had been made between Moe’s Vice President of non-traditional markets and Joanne Borfitz, Associate Vice President for community affairs and auxiliary services. The next step in the process involves the generation of Computer Assisted Design (CAD) drawings and a discussion of the finances necessary to run the restaurant. Mazen speculated that the restaurant could be established by next year.
“Our job now is to guide this idea in the right direction and tailor it to student needs,” Mazen said. “After all, who knows students better than current students?”
Contact Kendall Murtha at [email protected]