Shake Smart to shake up Norris come September as renovations start for health food chain


Illustration by Lillian Ali

When students stream back to campus in early September, a new retailer is set to greet them on Norris’ first floor: Shake Smart.

Cole Reynolds, Print Managing Editor

The crash of metal hitting the ground echoed through the first floor of Norris University Center Tuesday. The sound’s origin is hidden behind a blank, white wall covering what used to be the Norris Starbucks.

“That’s the sound of progress,” said Corbin Smyth, Norris’ executive director.

Tuesday was a construction day, as workers transformed the space, formerly known affectionately by students as Norbucks. When students stream back to campus in early September, a new retailer is set to greet them on Norris’ first floor: Shake Smart. 

The smoothie chain serves a number of foods, including wraps, Açai bowls and, of course, smoothies, which Shake Smart founder and CEO Kevin Gelfand said will range from $5-7. Affordability, convenience, nutrition and taste are the four criteria by which Gelfand developed the menu, he said. 

“It’s a whole meal in a cup for $7,” Gelfand said.

The idea for Shake Smart came out of Gelfand’s time at San Diego State University, he said. There, healthy options were few and far between, Gelfand remembers, and a smoothie was the best way to satisfy that lack of options.

Since its founding, Shake Smart hasn’t strayed far from its college roots. The chain operates 40 locations, exclusively on college campuses. Gelfand and Smyth said that this model helps Shake Smart optimize the college market in ways that local restaurants cannot.

“They understand the waves and patterns, they understand how to fit into a student union or student rec center,” Smyth said. “They have to be vibrant, they have to have a menu that has that sort of depth. They also have to be quick. That’s really the critical component.” 

Students will order through a kiosk system, Smyth said. That model is particularly adapted to college campuses, he said, which demand a speed of service unlike other markets and have customers with less disposable income. Gelfand said the Northwestern Shake Smart will be able to fulfill up to 120 orders per hour.

“Our brand was built from the ground up, day one, on the university,” Gelfand said.

Another pillar of the company is transparency, Gelfand said. To that end, he said the company makes nutritional information available to customers at the kiosks. However, NU Dining removed similar calorie counts from dining halls in February after hearing from students struggling with eating disorders.

In order to combat the harmful effects of posting calorie counts, Gelfand said that Shake Smart would have a button to allow customers to choose whether they see nutritional information or not.

Smyth also said that the University is working to add a meal exchange for Shake Smart, although the final details of such an offer haven’t yet been confirmed. The lack of meal exchange options, he said, has significantly hurt some vendors, such as the recently shuttered Viet Nom Nom, in the past. 

“We’ve got some late hours, and students are gathering and meeting for group meetings over here,” Smyth said. “It’s nice for them to be able to access some of that [food].” 

The NU Shake Smart is perhaps a long time coming for the University. Gelfand said that he’d been in discussions with Norris for years before the Norbucks location became available.

The store will open as Shake Smart goes through a significant expansion. The chain is attempting to add 10 stores this year, according to Gelfand.

“If college students were choosing their campus food, we’d already be on every campus in the nation,” Gelfand said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charcole27

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