The Corp, Georgetown’s largest student-run corporation, reopened on Jan. 27 to serve the Georgetown community, offering contactless pickup for drinks and food. They’ve reopened at two locations: Vital Vittles and what they’re calling the “Corp Café,” which is operating in the HFSC out of Grounded and Hilltoss.
With contactless ordering options and employee health and safety training, The Corp is returning its business to students, faculty, and employees both on and off campus. Despite its recent opening, increasing case numbers in the Georgetown community have led to temporary closures in Corp locations.
In March, when the university announced students would not be returning for the rest of the spring semester, The Corp acted quickly to provide storage. For the last year, The Corp has been working closely with the university, particularly with Auxiliary Business Services and also Student Affairs, to make a plan to safely reopen.
“Since the pandemic hit, we’ve just been trying to continue to serve the community as best we can in whatever capacity that might be,” Natalie DePaulo (COL ‘22), the COO and Vice President of The Corp, said.
Over the summer, this manifested in The Corp running a small operation delivering cold brew to the Georgetown neighborhood. “Since then we’ve been working with the university to reopen, and so now we’re finally at that stage where we can do that with this online ordering platform,” Corp CEO and President Ryan Farrell (SFS ‘21) noted.
Customers can go to The Corp’s website and order from Vital Vittles and the Corp Café for contactless pickup on campus. Vital Vittles offers grocery products attuned to what students need during the pandemic, such as cleaning supplies and masks, and the Corp Café is offering a coffee menu, pastries, and bagel options. Customers can pay with credit and debit cards online, or pay at pickup using Flex or Debit Dollars. Customers do not go into stores, which allows The Corp to safely serve the greater Georgetown community and follow the university’s protocols.
“The great thing about the online ordering is that we don’t have to kind of put a barrier on our customers,” Farrell said. “Anybody within the community can come and have this other food option at Georgetown and within the neighborhoods.”
In the roughly two weeks that The Corp has reopened, people from the community have been taking advantage of the service. “So far, we’ve had rushes of orders in the mornings and in between class times,” general manager of More Uncommon Grounds (MUG) Natalie Rechan (COL ‘21) wrote in an email to the Voice. “Given the number of people on campus is a fraction of the student and faculty body, we aren’t expecting to reach the same volume of customers we used to have. However, it seems like more and more kids on campus are hearing about our reopening and using The Corp as a convenient food and drinks option.”
Currently, however, the reopened Corp services are already facing closures related to COVID-19. On Jan. 28, the university sent an email to the Georgetown community, addressing the increased positive COVID-19 cases within the community, including students on-campus, faculty and employees, and students living in nearby neighbors, and announcing temporary measures to limit the spread. The measures include limiting access to the Lauinger Library building and facilities to students living on campus with green GU360 badges and the moving of all hybrid classes to a virtual format. According to the university, the operating restrictions will remain in place until Feb. 15, barring further increases in positive COVID-19 cases.
Because of the university’s temporary pause on allowing off-campus seniors to have access to university buildings, and the fact that The Corp’s employee base this semester is reliant on seniors, Vital Vittles has been temporarily closed.
“I, and the majority of our workforce, haven’t had the chance to work yet because employees living in the neighborhoods no longer have access to campus buildings,” Rechan wrote. The announcement from the university, with the new building access restrictions to off-campus seniors, came just a day after The Corp had reopened. “We’ll be returning to our original operations on February 15th,” Rechan noted. “I’m very excited!”
While health concerns in the greater Georgetown community continue to grow, The Corp is continuing to take many precautions to ensure the safety of their employees and customers. “The number one priority is the health and safety of the customers and employees and our community,” Farrell said.
“We basically have two levels of health and safety,” DePaulo said. “Primarily, we have all protocols that Georgetown has put into place.” This includes student testing required for green GU360 badges that allow access to university buildings. On top of that, DePaulo said, The Corp has implemented additional safety protocols. “When employees clock in, there’s another self-health check, they’ll take their temperature, and there’s different specific cleaning and disinfecting protocols that they’ll do before and after each shift to keep things as safe as possible.”
The Corp has also re-trained all their employees, focusing on health and safety, and has tested them on a health and safety guide. “I would say that most employees were eager to undergo training in order to get back to work,” wrote Rechan, who emphasized that she doesn’t have any safety concerns about working at The Corp. “I trust that my coworkers will take our health and safety protocols seriously given how long and hard the C-suite worked with university officials to create a reopening plan.”
The reopening plan is part of a larger moment for The Corp, as the organization, which is Georgetown’s largest student employer, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Farrell noted that this was an exciting time for this to happen, as The Corp marks this milestone with new online ordering services and new challenges. “That’s just one thing that I think the Georgetown community can look forward to within the next year of Corp 50 events and just kind of seeing how The Corp changes given the crazy world that we live in,” he said.
In the meantime, The Corp will continue to safely serve the student community as it can. “By reopening, we’re hoping to remind the Georgetown community that The Corp is still here, still providing students and faculty with the fuel they need to get through the academic year,” Rechan wrote.