Starbucks requested by 206 UVic students and staff, 2015 survey data shows

UVic says the decision to introduce Starbucks to campus has been in works since 2016

Stock image accessed via Pixabay.

When UVic announced last month that Starbucks will be taking the place of Finnerty Express Cafe starting in the fall of 2019, they cited that the decision was based off survey results from  students, staff, and faculty members who expressed interest in bringing Starbucks to campus.

The university was initially vague as to the scope of these surveys, exactly when they were conducted, and the percentage of students, faculty, and staff that had responded. After weeks of speculation, we finally have some answers.

According to results of a UVic Food Services survey conducted in the fall of 2015, 206 members of the campus community identified Starbucks as a brand they wished to see on campus.

UVic Food Services emailed the survey to approximately 8 000 members of the campus community, and received feedback from 2 816 individuals.

Of those who responded, more than 2 300 identified as students and 500 identified as university faculty or staff. 56 per cent of respondents were undergraduate students, 25.5 per cent were graduate students, and 0.6 per cent were continuing studies students.

The survey included 79 questions, primarily about individuals’ experiences with various UVic Food Service venues and products on campus.

When asked about the specific national brands students wanted to see on campus, 206 of the 841 people who responded to this question explicitly named Starbucks in their response.

Paul Marck, a spokesperson for UVic, stated that the decision to introduce three select branded food services on campus was made in 2016 and 2017.

In September 2017, Booster Juice and Bento Sushi became the first third-party food chains on campus since Tim Hortons left in the mid-2000s, and putting an end to UVic’s campus-wide moratorium on outside food brands.

Just under 51 per cent of respondents, or 1 314 people, voted yes [to bringing nationally branded food chains to campus], while 49 per cent, or 1 271 people, voted no.

“UVic’s customer base of students, faculty, staff and campus visitors has consistently voiced a preference that select brands are desired to complement the range of self-operated food locations,” said Marck.  “Starbucks has consistently ranked among the top brands desired on our campus.”

In addition to Starbucks, Booster Juice, Tim Hortons, and Subway were also named frequently in the survey responses.

Another question on the survey asked if campus community members felt that nationally branded food chains should be offered on campus, listing Starbucks and Booster Juice as examples. Just under 51 per cent of respondents, or 1 314 people, voted yes, while 49 per cent, or 1 271 people, voted no.

In the written survey responses from 2015, students expressed conflicting perspectives and motivations behind inviting outside food venues to UVic.

“The only reason I am saying yes to national brands on campus is because I believe the current state of Food Services makes all other options more attractive,” said one respondent. “If hours, quality/taste of food, prices, management, and employee satisfaction were improved, I guarantee you wouldn’t find people complaining about [not having] national brands on campus.”

Some spoke of the opportunities and comfort that globally-recognized brands could potentially provide.

“These are stores that everyone is familiar with and would help campus feel more like home with coffee shops that they are familiar with,” said a respondent who favoured bringing Starbucks and Tim Hortons to campus. “For me, I prefer the options and the quality of the food at these places and would love to see them on campus.”

Although most of the nearly 80 questions in the survey inquired about the quality and customer satisfaction for 19 of UVic’s food outlets, Finnerty Express Cafe was not mentioned by the university.

“Competing businesses encourages competitive pricing,” said another respondent in favour of bringing nationally branded food concepts to campus.

Others stated discontent at the suggested introduction of a corporate presence to campus.

“Don’t get Starbucks or big companies, just offer these opportunities to the incredible lineup of local food businesses,” one member of the campus community wrote. “Victoria is a damn good food city!”

Although most of the nearly 80 questions in the survey inquired about the quality and customer satisfaction for 19 of UVic’s food outlets, Finnerty Express Cafe was not mentioned by the university.

Finnerty was mentioned in the survey independently 10 times by respondents, however. Nine out of those 10 mentions were positive.

It is important to note that the survey in question may not have been the only source for the university’s decision to bring Starbucks to campus. Director of Campus Services Jim Forbes has pointed to other sources that have led to this decision.

“Many of our campus visitors including CARSA field facility users, conference guests, event attendees, parents at move-in, [and] visiting scholars have regularly requested a nationally branded coffee while on campus,” he said.

“Our customer base (students, faculty, staff and campus visitors) has consistently communicated through our surveys, advisory committees, and focus groups that select brands were desired to complement our extensive range of self-operated local concepts.”

Aside from this survey, the Martlet has not yet accessed results from any other cited surveys, advisory committees, or focus groups.

“We are disappointed by a university system that doesn’t seek a majority output in regards to decisions that impacts day to day life.”

Stop Starbucks UVic, the student-led group that has formed in response to the university’s decision to bring Starbucks to campus, expressed that they were disappointed but not surprised by the results of this survey.

“The fact that just seven per cent of respondents wanted a Starbucks, speaks to a lack of overall interest,” said Stop Starbucks UVic in a message to the Martlet. “As well, the survey didn’t clarify that it would be Finnerty being replaced, which is significant as many of our supporters have stated that it’s the closure of Finnerty Express that they are most disappointed by.

“We are also disappointed by a university system that doesn’t seek a majority output in regards to decisions that impacts day to day life. As we’ve stated before, we aren’t inherently anti-corporation, or anti-UVic food, but we are against a lack of consultation, and against the tangible lack of local, sustainable, and ethical food options on campus.”

This story is developing and will be updated as more information is made available.

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