March 31, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Senate’s Cups & Co. Is Brimming With Success

Since the Senates first private dining venture Cups & Co. opened its doors just over two years ago in the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building, the approximately 5,000-square-foot cafe has emerged as a classic American success story.

Were doing very well, its been a very successful operation, said co-owner Charles Chung, who came to the United States more than 30 years ago from Korea.

Chung, who runs the cafe with his wife, Kathy, hopes to eventually open an additional branch in the Capitol complex.

Weve got a lot of compliments from the Senators and staff ... a lot of staffers and Senators in the Hart Building want us to expand, Chung noted.

In fact, six months ago, the Chungs sold the parent Cups & Co., located at the intersection of Second and D streets Northeast, to a friend because of the demands and success of the Russell branch.

It has filled a need of our customers. Its provided a service that they have asked for, said Eva Malecki, spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitols Office, which negotiated the original contract for the shop. (The AOC oversees House and Senate dining operations.)

Those services complement the Senate restaurants, they dont compete with the Senate restaurants, Malecki added.

The original contract with Cups & Co. designated 10 percent of the shops revenue for the Senate dining operating budget, with that figure jumping to 13 percent once yearly sales surpassed $500,000.

Since then, the shops sales have exceeded the target; the Senate now collects more than $100,000 per year on the cafes approximately $1 million yearly revenue, Chung said.

Located just inside Russells northwest entrance at Delaware Avenue and C Street Northeast, Cups & Co. offers a range of specialty coffees, light breakfasts, and sandwiches, as well as hot and cold Asian foods.

This spring, the menu will broaden to include spicier, Southeast Asian foods, including Thai cuisine, said Chung.

Customers vote with their feet, observed one Senate staffer having lunch on a recent Thursday. And there seems to be a lot of footprints here.

The unprecedented success of Cups & Co. has also served to lessen the strain on the Senate dining budget, which has long been forced to rely on appropriations in order to make ends meet.

We were hoping that we would not count on appropriations at all effective 2003, said Michael Marinaccio, director of Senate restaurants. We were extremely close, but 9/11 hit us and that completely changed things.

Over the years, Senate restaurants has tried a variety of means to boost revenues, including raising prices, creating an internal Web site, and even introducing a Senate bean soup cup (in honor of the Senates most famous dish), which since December has been sold in the Dirksen Buildings southside sundry shop for $5.65.

There are reasons why the regular [dining] operations arent as successful, said Marinaccio, pointing out that Cups & Co. offered a narrower range of services and was not confronted with the same restrictions and obligations as a federally operated venture.

While Marinaccio deferred questions regarding the extent of the Senates current budget deficit to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee the panel with ultimate jurisdiction over Senate restaurants he did say that Cups & Co. was part of the budgets improved outlook.

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