Four million yearly customers make Union Starbucks most popular in northern Ohio

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For some of the 1,200 people who frequent the campus Starbucks each day, the store sells more than just liquid, it sells an experience.

More people are getting their caffeine fix at the Starbucks on campus than at any other Starbucks store in Northern Ohio, said Michael Paulus, director of dining services.

“It’s iconic— the drink combinations, the overall experience one gets,” he said.

The campus store handles a little less than 4 million transactions a year, Paulus said.

It’s the experience customers are willing to pay for that has created the popularity of Starbucks, said Dwayne Gremler, professor of marketing at the University.

The atmosphere, the location, the brand, the customizing option and the idea of Starbucks as a “treat,” all draw students to the store.

Graduate student Megan Adams builds her day around coffee breaks at Starbucks. She looks at her tall chai tea latte as a treat.

“Sometimes I need a boost,” she said. “I’m a pretty big coffee enthusiast, I look forward to coffee at certain times of the day so I will wait for it.”

Coming from her office in East Hall, Adams said going to Starbucks on campus is convenient.

“I think their location here is just ideal. It’s hard to imagine Starbucks on another campus being in a better location,” Gremler said. “Wherever someone’s going, it’s not too far out of the way to get there.”

There are more than 10,000 different ways to customize coffee at Starbucks, Paulus said, and he thinks “that’s what’s driving students.”

Another aspect that may increase the desirability of Starbucks is the lack of a comparable cup of coffee on campus, Gremler said.

“Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s have tried to capture some of the Starbucks products,” he said. “Both companies have a way to go to catch up with Starbucks to create a similar customer experience.”

Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks have different customer bases, Paulus said.

Karen Piotrowski, food service coordinator at Starbucks on campus, said she thinks it’s busy because “every student loves coffee, or needs it whether they love it or not.”

Piotrowski has worked at the store for more than five years, and said business has more than doubled since she started.

“It’s because the brand is more popular now,” she said.

Though the long line may deter some students from waiting in line, Piotrowski said some students don’t even notice.

“I think the students now are so busy with their phones and friends that they don’t even notice how long the line is,” she said.

And, the line goes fast, Piotrowski said.

“We’re really dedicated to making it fast for our people,” she said. “We want our customers to be really happy, we want them to come back, we want them to get to their class.”

Bowling Green also often offers what Gremler calls “coffee-drinking” weather.

“It’s nice to come in and have a warm drink,” Adams said. “It’s cozy and convenient.”