By Sue McMurray, Carson College of Business

Visitors entering Todd Hall may notice a delicious smell wafting throughout the building. The source stems from a hidden jewel on the Carson College of Business’s first floor, the Atrium Café.

Staffed by hospitality business management students in training, the café offers a variety of baked goods made by Hospitality Catering Services and a host of beverages with enticing aromas that make it hard to pass by without buying something.

Recently, sales have increased thanks to increased efficiency resulting from two new espresso machines donated by Farmers Brothers, a national coffee roaster with distribution based locally in Spokane and Union Gap.

Farmer Brothers bought out Boyd’s Coffee, the café’s previous supplier. Once Dirk Weiler, Farmer Brothers area sales manager, discovered the success of the operation despite some equipment challenges, his first thought was, “How do we help take this amazing operation to the next level?”

New equipment supports professional skills

Weiler and his Farmers Brothers support team Brian Granely, Scott Lockhead and Patrick Sestak developed a plan to donate and maintain two new espresso machines and grinders, as well as supply two new pump pots and Farmers Brothers branding materials to enhance the café’s customer service and appeal. Jim Harbour, the hospitality clinical associate professor overseeing the café’s operations, gratefully accepted. The new equipment allows students to practice traditional methods of coffee production versus using the pod technology previously in place, he said.

Atrium barista using the new espresso machines.
Bree Ask prepares an espresso with a new machine donated by Farmers Brothers.

“Personally, I have felt like I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge working with such professional equipment,” said Bree Ask, Atrium Café’s student marketing and communications manager. “Our new machines have given me a new passion for coffee, and I may consider a career in this field.”

Having worked in the hospitality and food service sectors his entire career, Weiler reflects on the value that working in the Atrium Café provides hospitality students as future industry professionals.

“I really struggled in school when I did not understand the application of the lessons,” he said. “To have a program like the Atrium Café in place where students can apply the knowledge they are gaining in class will immensely improve their chances of success once they join the workforce.”

Partnership results in multiple pay offs

Espressos made with the new equipment are paying off in reputation as well as in sales, Ask said.

“The taste of the coffee and the efficiency of the new machines truly enhance Atrium Cafe’s whole look and make us more competitive with other coffee suppliers on campus,” she said. “Customers have been happy with the result of the new machines as well, as we hear them comment that the Atrium Café has the best coffee on campus.”

To Weiler, it doesn’t matter if you are an operator, a vendor, an employee or a customer — everyone benefits by supporting the success of the next generation of hospitality professionals.

“Occasionally, we have an opportunity to be more than just a supplier to our customers. This is where my enjoyment for what I do reaches its peak,” Weiler said. “When the relationship becomes a partnership, and both parties have a vested interest in the success of the program, the excitement and engagement we receive is icing on the cake.”

To learn more about supporting the Atrium Café or the hospitality business management program, contact Jeff Pilcher, director of development, 509‑335‑8906, jeff.pilcher@wsu.edu.