Cafe Babel Debuts New Starbucks

Michael O’Brien ‘23


Over winter break, some students may have missed the Jan. 17 email from Dining Services announcing a collaboration with Starbucks on campus; but now that everyone is back on campus, it’s been hard to miss the crowds that have been amassing at Cafe Babel. 

To kick off the Spring semester, students have been able to purchase signature Starbucks offerings such as cappuccinos, cold brews, refreshers, and assorted pastries through the use of dining dollars on their Crusader OneCard, a large reason for the kinds of crowds the cafe has been drawing. 

Starbucks now joins one of the few current corporate operations that conduct business at Holy Cross, alongside Santander and Bank of America’s ATMs in the Hogan Campus Center; the College has also briefly partnered with Sodastream and their seltzer dispenser services in the past.

To learn more about the beginning of Starbucks’ relationship with Holy Cross and how much work got put in to make this happen, I caught up with Director of Dining and Hospitality Services Rich Perna. Off the bat, he told me “Dining is very excited to be able to serve Starbucks beverages for the Holy Cross community to enjoy. We reached out to Nestle in the fall…making this transition takes many meetings with Nestle and our facilities department to make it happen.”

Dining’s commitment to bringing a Starbucks to campus is a significant one, as the coffee conglomerate only operates about 300 locations on college campuses in the U.S. based on a 2021 survey. Additionally, it seems that Starbucks naturally favors operating at big schools such as Arizona State University and the University of Alabama, given their large student body population. In learning about why this kind of partnership with a smaller school such as Holy Cross is economically beneficial to Starbucks as students don’t need to use actual cash to purchase their products on campus, Rich told me “Holy Cross pays Nestle for all the Starbucks supplies which is how they make money; [they] provide everything that is needed for a ‘We Proudly Serve Starbucks.’”

While the menu remains limited compared to other Starbucks franchises, Rich told me that there are plans to expand options soon. “Once we become more efficient we will add a panini menu to this location. We hope to expand the bakery offerings as well,” Rich said. While there may not be any word on additions to the drink menu at the moment, it seems that the College is keen on making sure the menu has as many choices as possible.

Already thinking about the possibility of another national chain on campus after Starbucks setting the pace? “Starbucks has been the only conversation at this point,” Rich said. 

Starbucks at Cafe Babel’s current hours are Monday-Friday from 7:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. 

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