Saxbys locations open at Pitt with business opportunities for students

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Diana Velasquez | Contributing Editor

Pitt celebrated the grand openings of two Saxbys, a Philadelphia-based coffee shop that opened its locations for business on the ground floor of Hillman and the Cathedral of Learning this past Wednesday.

By Diana Velasquez, Culture Editor

Far too many Pitt students have sat in Hillman Library during finals week bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived with a pile of two or three Monster energy drinks cluttered on the table. But those who take a stroll to the ground floor of Hillman or the Cathedral of Learning will find a new and improved energy fix.

For those caffeine and breakfast sandwich lovers, luck has come your way. Pitt is now the new home to two Saxbys, a Philadelphia-based coffee shop that opened its locations for business this past Wednesday. 

During the cafe’s opening ceremony Wednesday morning, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher jokingly commented on coffee’s place in university settings, usually as a companion to students and faculty alike on late nights. 

“We all talk about the lifeblood of the University, the students, the faculty, but we know it’s really coffee,” he said. 

But there’s more to Saxbys than its coffee. The coffee shop chain, which you can usually find on college campuses across the state, has created learning opportunities for students focusing on careers in business. 

Each location is run by a “student cafe executive officer,” usually a student enrolled in the school’s business program, who is in charge of all operations for that specific shop with little interference from upper-level management. 

Angel Albright-Sexton, the SCEO for the Hillman Saxbys, said the SCEO positions are a new experimental opportunity at Pitt, particularly because SCEOs receive the equivalent of 12 class credits for their work at the coffee shop.

“We each get 12 credits for doing this, and then we’re each taking another class,” Albright-Sexton, a sophomore finance and human resources management major, said. “And well this is the first time they’re doing it. So, everyone that hears about it is like ‘whoa is that really a thing?’”

Ceari “Robbie” Robinson, the SCEO of the Cathy Saxbys, said she wasn’t as surprised to hear about Saxbys business opportunities because she’s encountered it before when she attended Temple University. But she was even more excited to work at Saxbys here at Pitt because she remembered how friendly the workplace seemed. 

“I used to go to [Temple University], and there’s already two Saxbys established cafes there, so I was a frequent customer,” Robinson, a senior marketing and Italian major, said. “And then when I transferred here they had a booth at the career fair for Pitt Business, and I felt so at home seeing them.”

But Saxbys isn’t just run by two Pitt students — Pitt students are also manning the register, making the food, stocking the fridge and looking at finances. This kind of business model is called an “experimental learning platform” that was developed specifically by Saxbys.

“What [ELP] means is it’s a student-run cafe, and we only hire students. So I go to Pitt, I’m a senior, [Abright-Sexton] is a sophomore,” Robinson said. “Everyone that works in our cafes is either a Pitt undergrad or a Pitt grad student, and we kind of just work together to run it and to hire it.”

A cafe run entirely by students not only allows for learning opportunities in the business and hospitality world, but it creates a whole new kind of working atmosphere for its workers. 

Brooklyn Rensberger, a Saxbys barista at the Hillman location, said working at Saxbys has been the most community-oriented job she’s ever had before, especially when it comes to working with her team members. 

“This is the fastest I’ve built connections with other team members, and that’s been cool,” Rensberger said. “My other jobs I’ve had were kind of really chill and focused and rigid, and you didn’t get to talk to guests as much. So it’s been fun. It’s just a really fun job.”

As for what you can order at Saxbys, Alright-Sexton recommended trying their cold brew, a shop specialty. If you’re not one for caffeine, their smoothies are a great bet as well, but more than anything else she said their breakfast sandwich options are not only delicious but give students a power-boost for the day.

“We specialize pretty much in grilled cheese and burritos, like breakfast burritos,” Albright-Sexton said. “So rather than Starbucks, where they have all of their stuff frozen and they just put it in an oven or microwave, we actually prep some of our stuff, and we cook it that way.”

Saxbys food isn’t just fresh, but also of a higher quality than the food you might see in other chain cafes. Robinson said they’d rather have food that’s more healthy for the customer than food that lasts longer in the storeroom. 

“A lot of other companies use things that have a lot of pasteurization and high sugar just so it has a higher shelf life,” Robinson said. “But we prioritize good quality food for the guests versus having it last longer.” 

Working in customer service is no easy feat, but Robinson said even in the past few weeks while she’s been training with her staff there’s been a camaraderie between the students she hasn’t seen anywhere else, and she hopes it continues in the future. 

“Just look at it as a club, because I know a lot of our team members have already after a training session been like ‘oh my gosh. Can I get your number?’” Robinson said. “And then I’ll see them walking around campus together, and that makes my heart feel so good.”

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