When Nikki Ong opened her Pennsylvania Avenue restaurant, the Thai Place, last February, she said GW students came in and asked whether they could pay with their GWorld cards.
“I did not know what it was,” Ong said. “So finally I asked a male student what it was, and he told me how it worked. I went over to the GWorld office at the Marvin Center and found out more.”
By spring, Ong joined the partnership with GW, and the Thai Place accepted then-called Debit Dollars.
Although she said her restaurant’s partnership with GW helped her business, Ong anticipates a more significant increase now that students are back on campus for the fall semester.
Other Colonial Cash partners said increased sales from the program make the system worthwhile, despite complaints they have. Problems with the system include slow transaction time and percentage of sales GW takes out – around 3.5 percent – vendors said.
Storeowners continue to approach the GWorld Card Office to sign up for the Colonial Cash program, new to campus this fall.
Since the University began soliciting businesses to be Colonial Cash partners this spring, at least five off-campus vendors have joined up, including Bertucci’s, the Espresso and More cart and Soapy Joe’s Laundry service.
“Most often a merchant contacts the GWorld Card Office directly after students tell the merchant they’re interested in having that merchant accept GWorld Cards,” said Christine Fischer, assistant director of contract services.
Although businesses usually contact the University, Fischer said GW continues to market its program to new vendors. This year, GW is shifting its marketing focus to partners in areas other than Foggy Bottom.
The University previously mandated all students living on campus purchase Points, which acted as students’ meal plans and were only accepted at on-campus Aramark vendors. Students could also choose to purchase Debit Dollars, which they could use at several on- and off-campus locations such as the GW Bookstore and nearby restaurants and stores.
Colonial Cash combined the two systems, allowing students with meal plans to go off campus.
Although students with meal plans never have to eat in J Street or in other Aramark dining venues again, Aramark officials said they are not worried about a drop in business.
“We totally support the University in (its) endeavor,” said Amelia Powell, marketing program manager of Dining Services. “There’s plenty of business to go around.”
Off-campus business representatives said it is too soon to tell if Colonial Cash is more successful than Debit Dollars, and the appeal to join is the same this year as last.
GW’s change to Colonial Cash was not what prompted Bertucci’s – located at 2000 Penn. – to join the GWorld partnership, said Bertucci’s Marketing Manager Nancy Barret.
“(The decision to join the GW partnership) is not due to the change (to Colonial Cash), but due to the fact that we’re so close to the University … It makes sense,” she said.
Barret added that Bertucci’s approached GW to sign up for Colonial Cash as a result of the corporation’s decision to focus marketing on local stores.
“We don’t expect to see the full impact of (joining the program) until students really get back to campus,” Barret said.
Bertucci’s has accepted Colonial Cash since early August.