Common Grounds café located on the second floor of Rauch Business Center. The café reopened to students and faculty members on Feb. 28. (Sharon Jo/B&W Staff)

Common Grounds reopens in Rauch Business Center


Common Grounds, Rauch Business Center’s retail dining café, reopened on Feb. 28 after being closed indefinitely in August 2021.

The café, a highly frequented dining option on campus, was impacted by labor shortages.

“The labor shortage is very much a real thing nationwide in the food industry,” said Evan Rehrig, marketing manager for Lehigh Dining. “We knew how popular Common Grounds was, and it was always our intention to have it open all the time. Being so short-staffed, unfortunately, the location ended up on the chopping block.”

The dining spot – which offers coffee, sushi rolls, hot and cold sandwiches, soups and other snacks – was a popular spot for business students to refuel before and between classes. 

Common Grounds café located on the second floor of Rauch Business Center. The café reopened to students on Feb. 28. (Sharon Jo/B&W Staff)

Its closure last year caused many students, such as Jack Swenson, ‘22, to switch up their daily routine.

Swenson said that as a finance student who has most of his classes in Rauch, he used to visit Common Grounds often, whether it be to grab a pick-me-up or catch up with friends. 

“It was a great place for me to get a quick coffee instead of having to walk off campus 10 minutes to get Starbucks on East Third Street,” Swenson said. “I feel like when Common Grounds was closed, Rauch seemed at half capacity. Usually it was this very packed business school where people are constantly interacting with each other – with the cafe closed, it was almost like no one really studied or hung out there outside of class.”

Swenson said he felt frustrated by the café’s sudden closure last semester and thinks the reopening is a nice step towards normalcy on campus.

Rehrig said Common Grounds’ reopening came as a result of dining services being proactive about staffing concerns to prevent future closures.

Rehrig said a major component of the reopening plan involved dining services working closely with Lehigh Student Senate to hire more student employees at the location.

Another factor allowing for the reopening was outreach into the community. Rehrig said dining services offered community members incentives, such as sign-on bonuses, in order to reach the adequate staffing needed to reopen.

The search and onboarding of employees was so successful, it also allowed dining to extend Common Grounds’ hours of operation.

This semester, the café is open from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

The reopening has garnered a positive community response, with many people excited to dine without having to leave the business school once again.

“We’re so excited that (Common Grounds) is back and I think students are too,” Rehrig said, “Monday (Feb. 28) was our first day open and I know on Tuesday, we had over 200 sales, with similar numbers on Wednesday. That’s a good start.”

(Alibek Kaliyev/B&W Staff)

Rylin Douthit, ‘25, said she discovered Common Grounds during her first week at Lehigh and missed the café during its closure.

After learning about the café’s reopening from a social media post, Douthit said she has visited the café once or twice a day since its return.

“It’s so close to where I live on campus and everyone that works there is so friendly,” Douthit said. “I also just like all of its food options, like their coffee and their sandwiches. I usually go for breakfast and sometimes if I don’t have afternoon classes I’ll go there for lunch. It’s great.”

Rehrig said in addition to Common Grounds’ full menu and extended hours, dining services also intend to reopen the café’s patio and grill area as the weather gets warmer.

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