Until recently, when students went to Bertucci’s, they faced long wait times, problems paying with GWorld cards and a less-than-enthusiastic waiters, managers said.
But now, they are trying to revamp the restaurant’s image.
“We started a slogan,” said Warren Grill, the eatery’s area marketing director. “It’s going to say, ‘Bertucci’s, have you tried us lately?’”
To draw customers back in, the Foggy Bottom branch is committing to giving a 15 percent discount to anyone who shows their GWorld card, making Bertucci’s one of several restaurants in the Shops at 2000 Penn looking to attract more college students, faculty and staff with discounts.
Grill added that Bertucci’s is hiring new student waiters and has added additional GWorld machines, both of which he said were done in an effort to appease the students who make up 60 percent of their customer base.
“Students are on a tight budget, and we know that,” Grill said. “Things have changed. We feel that the present management, we are a lot more accommodating. We will go a step further.”
In the past few years, many longtime, family-owned businesses in the Shops at 2000 Penn have struggled to stay afloat. One Stop News, the only newsstand in the neighborhood, shut down last year after falling behind on rent, fees, utilities and taxes.
Smaller food chains in the complex, like The Perfect Pita, have taken a hit in sales in the past few years, owner Erica Dodd said.
“We’ve distributed menus and coupons on and around campus,” Dodd said. “But we haven’t seen any real good response from it.”
Ice cream shop Cone E. Island closed last March after falling into thousands of dollars of debt. The opening of Captain Cookie and the Milkman, a store based on the popular D.C. food truck of the same name, is moving into Cone E. Island’s former location, hoping to bring students to the shopping center when it opens Thursday.
Burger chain Johnny Rockets has a national promotion that gives students discounted meal combos including food and drinks.
Other restaurants, like Au Bon Pain, have partnered with student organizations to try to create stronger ties with campus. Store manager Mark Bernstein said his branch has donated leftover baked goods at the end of the night to GW student groups that work with shelters and other food organizations.
Even with the financial struggles some establishments are facing, other neighborhood restaurant owners say they are doing well. Jeremy Pollock, the owner of Tonic at Quigley’s, said business has remained steady for the restaurant since it opened eight years ago.
“The students, faculty and the administration – you guys are our bread and butter,” Pollock said. “We do everything that we can to reach out to you guys and make us appealing to the students.”