Inside the HDH takeover of Audrey’s Café

Audrey’s Café began a partnership with HDH this academic year, leading to a series of changes for the establishment.
Inside the HDH takeover of Audreys Café
Photo by Hana Tobias/ UCSD Guardian

As of September 2023, Audrey’s Café has been added to the list of Housing Dining and Hospitality locations at UC San Diego. Located on the second floor of Geisel Library, the humble coffee shop pays homage to Dr. Seuss’ late wife, Audrey Geisel, and has been providing library-goers with much-needed caffeine since May 2016.

This occasion marks the café’s second change in management in under five years. From the time Audrey’s opened until 2019, UCSD Sports Facilities was the café’s head of operations. However, UCSD Sports Facilities decided not to renew this contract in favor of focusing more on its own programs. As a result, Audrey’s began its partnership with the UCSD Bookstore. 

After closing from June to September of 2023, Audrey’s returned with the announcement that it now accepts Triton Cash and Dining Dollars, as HDH is its new service provider. According to Nikki Kolupailo, Director of Communications and Engagement for the UCSD Library, this change in management comes from “a shared recognition between the Library, the Bookstore, and HDH that HDH is best positioned to operate Audrey’s given its primary focus on campus-wide food services.”

While the café itself hasn’t changed significantly, HDH has impacted on how it is run. From a customer perspective, this has mostly manifested in Audrey’s now accepting Dining Dollars and Triton Cash, as well as being added to the Triton2Go app. But alongside the newly added mobile ordering system and blue HDH uniforms, students may also notice a difference in the beverages they receive.

“I believe that a major change has been just following a recipe,” said Rubi De La Sancha, a HDH lead food service worker at Audrey’s. According to De La Sancha, with the implementation of standardized recipes, HDH intends to ensure beverage consistency and quality. 

“With HDH, we follow a Bewley’s company recipe,” she explained. “They’re the ones that supply our fresh ingredients, starting from our coffee beans. We’re provided with excellent coffee beans, and I feel that that makes a difference on our beverages; the espresso is more tasteful.”

Customers may also spot new faces working at the café, as nearly all of Audrey’s current workers began working there this school year. Since its change in management, Audrey’s now has only two remaining members of its previous staff, according to De La Sancha. The rest of the café’s current staff is made up of students who were previously working at other HDH locations on campus.

Because of HDH’s requirements of employee uniforms and specific customer service training, most Audrey’s workers decided to leave their positions upon its takeover. 

“Those changes came and took a toll on some of our old workers unfortunately, where they were just more comfortable not having those kinds of policies,” De La Sancha said. “It was unfortunate; it was sad to see them go. But now, we’re always welcoming our freshmen who want to work and anybody that is in need of a job.”

HDH jobs differ from other on-campus food service jobs primarily because employees are expected to follow HDH-specific procedures and tend to have fewer behind-the-scenes responsibilities. According to freshman and HDH worker David Goldstein, while working for HDH, “you’re really treated like a student.”

“In general, my job is to be nice and respectful, but also to be fairly neutral,” Goldstein said. “If customers are being rude or disrespectful … especially because the university is such a big entity, if you as a student do something wrong and UC San Diego as a whole gets in trouble, they really don’t want that.”

Many students have also reported that HDH positions include more structured customer service training than other on-campus jobs. But while this training is meant to ensure similar experiences across all HDH locations for customers, they can cause student employees to feel more restricted at work.

De La Sancha said that the majority of customers at Audrey’s are regulars — especially graduate students who consistently stop by while studying at Geisel. Among these customers especially, Audrey’s signature lavender syrup was a favorite. Originally, it wasn’t going to be available after the café’s change of management. 

“It was something that they would always ask,” De La Sancha said. “Only Audrey’s has the lavender syrup in all of the retail markets from HDH. So, we hear what the people want, we hear what the customers want, and we kept that lavender syrup. It was a hassle to get it here, but we got it.”

Photo by Hana Tobias

As some may have noticed, several of the café’s beverages are now prepared differently. For instance, the daily demand for caffeine is high on a college campus, especially in a place like Geisel Library — and standard Audrey’s recipes have been adjusted accordingly. In some drinks, an extra shot of espresso has been added to give customers a much-needed extra bump of energy. 

While beverage quality may have improved, the speed of service is often slower due to the influx of online orders. After ordering from Audrey’s recently, customer Tram said, “I noticed that it took me a lot longer to get my coffee — like 30 minutes … I think the wait time is worse than last year, but the quality is the same for me.”

Given these wait times, many undergraduate students expressed reliance on the Triton2Go app when it comes to ordering from the café.

“From what I’ve seen, I feel like it’s a good 50/50,” said Alondra, a freshman and regular customer at Audrey’s. “I’ve seen a lot of people go in-person because they have little snacks there that they like to buy from the library. But I also see that if they just want coffee, they do the Triton2Go app.”

Audrey’s may not be finished with its revamp just yet. According to Kolupailo, an automated option might become available in the future for those looking to grab a coffee late at night or on the go. 

“Library leadership also continues its work with HDH to explore the possibility of offering coffee, tea, and other self-service options via a vending machine to better support Library users outside of Audrey’s operating hours,” Kolupailo said. While it is unclear when this technology would be implemented, it would be a welcome addition for both customers in a hurry and baristas who often work through rushes of orders.

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About the Contributors
Abby Offenhauser, Staff Writer
Abby is a first-year Literature/Writing major, ardent listener of fiction and talk podcasts, and lover of satire.
Hana Tobias, Photographer
Hana is a fourth year Cognitive Science major.
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