Campus pub sales get rammed

Ryerson’s student watering hole is going a bit dry, financially speaking.

Overall sales at The Ram in the Rye are down 30.5 per cent compared to last year, according to a report tabled at a recent Student Campus Centre (SCC) board meeting.

The Ram and the Oakham Café are the only two student-run and student-funded restaurants on campus.

They’re both run by Rick Knapp, the food and beverage manager of the Palin Foundation, the non-profit entity that operates the SCC.

Several factors have contributed to the drop in sales, according to Knapp.

“The cause of the decrease is hard to pinpoint, however it is likely due to increased competition, changes in programming and of course students on a tighter budget due to increase costs associated with going to school,” Knapp said in an email.

Gabor Forgacs, an associate professor at the Ted Rogers school of hospitality and tourism management, said he sees his students are “constrained financially.”

“A lot of (the students) have to support themselves, partly or fully,” Forgacs said. “Everybody has a part-time job. They’re very careful with their money. It’s not like the old days, when students were carefree and had money to spend.”

But the Ram is feeling the pinch, too. The pub and Oakham upped their prices this summer, a step that Knapp said was unavoidable.

Price hikes on food and alcohol have affected sales in unpredictable ways, according to the report.

The Student Loan Special, a breakfast special at Oakham, has seen a 38 per cent increase in sales, despite its price going up by 50 cents (to $4.49 from $3.99). Meanwhile, at the Ram, the price of a pint of Molson Canadian draught increased to $4.86 from $4.43, with sales dropping by 10 per cent.

“After over four years with no price increases it was necessary to raise prices over the summer to keep up with rising costs,” Knapp said.

He added that the Ram “remains the most cost effective place to enjoy food and beverage on campus and in the local neighbourhood.”

One of the Ram’s closest competitors is Lou Dawg’s, a pub at Gerrard and Church Streets — run by Ryerson marketing professor Daryl D’Souza — that opened in 2011.

“Being a downtown pub, the Ram in the Rye has always had to deal with competition from our neighbours,” Knapp said.

“Our strategy is to continue offering excellent food at reasonable prices and implementing programming that appeals to students.”

Knapp said that in November the Ram has been “booked solid” in terms of student events, but decreased programming in September and October took a toll on booze sales, according to the SCC board meeting report.

Alcohol sales went down by 16 per cent, or $22,277, for the period between Sept. 1, 2013 and Oct. 29, 2013.

Bar rail sales, such as shots of gin, vodka or scotch, dropped by 33 per cent.

Oakham Café seems to be in a much better financial position, according to the report, with food sales up by a “staggering” 30 per cent, or $34,891.

Some food strategies have had mixed results.

At Oakham, after the fettucini alfredo meal was replaced with mushroom ravioli, sales of the latter went down by 48 per cent.

At the Ram, meanwhile, replacing the spaghetti meal with Sloppy Joes has been a success, with the latter’s sales up 58 per cent over the former.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on November 27, 2013.

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