“We want affordable services”: students express disappointment in new Forum Starbucks
A survey led by Exeposé has revealed some students’ mixed reactions to the new Starbucks that opened on 14 September in the Forum, replacing the Costa outlet that closed on 22 April.
While a few students expressed that they were “happy” and one said “I like Starbucks and don’t like Costa”, many were vocal about their disappointment in the new outlet choice. Overall, 24 out of 57 respondents said they were not pleased with the decision, 15 expressed neutrality and a further 18 responded positively to the news.
Others told Exeposé that they did not understand why Starbucks had been chosen to replace Costa, stating it “literally doesn’t make any sense” and that there was “no point changing brands”, as “[outlets such as Starbucks bring] no character to the campus”. Furthermore, some argue that the new outlet does not reflect students’ desires, with one complaining that “students were not consulted at all”.
Not compatible with students’ budgets
When asked about the price of food on campus, 47 out of 57 respondents (82.5 per cent) said that there aren’t enough affordable options on campus. One person suggested that “there are a few options on campus, but the uni is so close to town I don’t think it’s necessary to have loads”.
Many students expressed frustration, referring to a lack of variety in prices among campus outlets. One told Exeposé that “[Starbucks is] another expensive brand, we want affordable services”, with another arguing that “Starbucks is far more expensive [than Costa] and the coffee, to be frank, is crap”.
Some survey respondents noted that the new Starbucks risked making Streatham Campus economically inaccessible: “Pairing Starbucks and Pret (the famously expensive chains) when most campuses have Greggs and Costa (semi affordable) really sends a message to lower income students that they do not belong at Exeter.” In fact, multiple respondents emphasised that they wanted to have a Greggs on campus.
Another student said: “Given the cost of living crisis and widely recognised financial predicament of students, it is utterly appalling that the primary options for food outlets on campus are Pret and the shockingly overpriced and terrible quality Market Place. Although outlets such as the Ram and Comida are marginally more reasonable, there is nowhere near sufficient provision of affordable food outlets for the number of students at Exeter.”
One suggestion a student put forward was that “food [on campus] should be subsidised or made cheaper to fit the student market and budget”, while another emphasised that they wanted to see the University “cater to different diets such as gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan”.
The new Forum Starbucks is operated by regional licensee Cobra Coffee, and the store will offer Too Good to Go, a surplus food app that connects customers to restaurants and stores that have unsold food. Additionally, in partnership with Conservation International, Starbucks has committed itself to 100 per cent ethically sourced coffee.
The University has identified sustainability as one of the key points of its 2030 strategy, seeking to “lead meaningful action against the climate emergency and ecological crisis”. However, many students argued that the new Starbucks does not conform to the University’s objectives. “Starbucks isn’t affordable, sustainable, ethical,” one respondent told Exeposé, “funding another massive corporation is not student friendly”.
[The University should] cater to different diets such as gluten-free, vegetarian or veganSurvey respondent
Another participant wrote: “I thought the University had a new sustainability policy saying they were going to buy local and work with independent stores, it is disappointing they are not following their word, especially just after a heat wave where the effects of climate change are obvious.”
Emma de Saram, VP Liberation & Equality for the Students’ Guild, said: “Although we are glad that another outlet will be opening to help service students on campus, we do not feel that the appointment of Starbucks aligns with the University’s environmental strategy. We feel this would have been a great opportunity to appoint a local, sustainable company to take the place of Costa, one whom would better sit with the values of the University.
“This would have been a key opportunity for the University to adhere to Demand 3 from the Be The Change open letter which called for the University to prioritise local and sustainable catering companies. Additionally, it is disappointing that as far as we are aware there was no consultation with students to help inform this decision. A group of students and staff are working to ensure the Commercial Board at the University are aware that there is some dissatisfaction with Starbucks becoming such a prominent outlet on campus.”
“We welcome all feedback”: the University responds
A spokesperson for the University of Exeter told Exeposé: “The University recently announced that Starbucks will open in the Forum building on the Streatham Campus. As winners of the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainability 2022, the partnership aligns with the University’s 2030 Strategy to create a more sustainable future.
“The University places huge importance on the all-round experience for every campus user, including catering options. We regularly review our food and drinks provisions across all campuses to ensure that the needs and requirements of students, staff and visitors alike are met. This includes ensuring there are good choices to meet all dietary requirements and affordable prices. We are confident that our provisions offer ever-changing dishes, and enjoyable food experiences, for everyone. We welcome all feedback and will take this into account when considering future plans.”