AMS silent on cost as multiple businesses shut down or change names

All of the AMS-run restaurants that opened with the Nest, with the exception of Grand Noodle Emporium and the Pit, have either changed their name or shut down.

The AMS has declined to discuss the financial impact of its failed or revamped businesses, though meeting minutes from 2013 provide insight into how much the union has spent on several logo changes in a two-year period.

Perch, a high-end dining restaurant; Lowercase, a coffee shop; and Palate, a soup and sandwich shop, all shut down in 2016 due to poor performance. AMS President Alan Ehrenholz said Palate will reopen soon with a focus on vegan and vegetarian food, possibly as Garden Grove — the name has “gone back and forth.”

FlipSide — a burger joint — closed this year to make way for Iwana Taco, a Mexican place, but Ehrenholz said it will reopen in the near future as a food truck, which the AMS bought for an undisclosed amount.

Ehrenholz also declined to comment on expenses related to creating names and logos, hiring staff, buying furniture and equipment, or any other cost sunk into a closed-down restuarant.

“It’s just due to our internal — we have a desire to ensure that we’re not giving away too much information to our competitors,” he said. “Same as a contract, it’s just not good business practice.”

Ehrenholz said the AMS changed FlipSide into Iwana Taco due to students’ demands for a Mexican place in the Nest food survey last year. He refused to talk about how much the AMS spent on the logo or any costs involved with switching a burger place into a Mexican restaurant, other than the fact that the space was “designed with the intent to be flexible.”

He said there “a couple expenditures” related to the switch, but refused to elaborate on what those were.

Changing names

Pie R Squared (formerly Boom! Pizza); Honour Roll (formerly Peko Peko); and Blue Chip Cafe (formerly Uppercase) have undergone name and logo changes. All three changed their names from their current ones for the Nest opening, then eventually switched back.

The AMS sunk about $5,000 into the name Boom! Pizza before they reverted it to Pie R Squared before the Nest opened, largely because students thought “Boom!” was silly — “a big old mess,” according to Ehrenholz.

File Arno Rosenfeld

Ehrenholz said the AMS decided to switch the names back now to compete with the bigger food brands opening up around the Nest.

“When we look at something like a Blue Chip, people identify with the Blue Chip brand. People identify with Honour Roll because they remember Honour Roll from the old space,” he said.

AMS restaurants in the Old SUB were last operational in 2014/15, meaning the crop of students who have never seen the original Blue Chip are currently in their third year.

A Business Administration and Governance Board (BAGB) committee discusses renaming Pie R Squared to Boom! Pizza
A Business Administration and Governance Board (BAGB) committee discusses renaming Pie R Squared to Boom! Pizza BAGB

The only hint as to how much name changes could have cost the AMS comes from a 2013 Business Administration and Governance Board (BAGB) committee meeting minutes, when they considered ditching Boom! — which they had paid design firm Glasfurd and Walker to make for them — and revert back to Pie R Squared.

It cost $5,000 to change the name back before any signage had been manufactured. As for going with Boom!, keeping it for a year, then switching back to Pie R Squared — the same thing that happened to Blue Chip and Honour Roll — would have been “way more than $5,000.”

Ehrenholz said that no matter how much was spent changing restaurants’ names or shutting them down, it was spent in the student interest.

“It’s to serve students, right?” he said.

“We’re learning what students are doing in the Nest, how they’re using the Nest, what they want to see in the Nest. [T]hat’s why some of these decisions to rebrand were made — because the students are telling us they do want different things in the building than we originally put in.”