Bento Sushi and Booster Juice coming to UVic

Campus News
Mystic Market will soon see the addition of Booster Juice to expand its offerings. File photo by William Workman
Mystic Market will soon see the addition of Booster Juice to expand its offerings for students. File photo by William Workman

UVic is set to fundamentally alter the way University Food Services operates with the addition of two independently owned food chains on campus.

In a notice published by the Ring on Monday, July 11, UVic announced that Canadian chains Booster Juice and Bento Sushi will be coming to Mystic Market and Cadboro Commons, respectively. Both chains are expected to be ready in time for the start of the 2016-17 academic year in September.

Food Services also announced that the VegOut kiosk at Mystic Market would be replaced by a Mexican kiosk serving traditional Mexican cuisine with vegan and vegetarian options.

Both Booster Juice and Bento Sushi were approached after a market research program undergone by Food Services that surveyed students, staff, and faculty. David Purcell, director of UVic Food Services, is quoted in the release as saying that both brands “support UVic’s sustainability initiatives, recycling programs, ethical purchasing practices, organic and fair trade concerns and the student experience.”

Speaking with the Martlet, Purcell said the decision “made sense”.

“They both fill a need that we have,” Purcell said. “I think that the general sentiment when it came to the sushi portion of our offering was that the offering wasn’t of the quality or the caliber that was expected of our students . . . and with [Booster Juice] it made sense, not only with the desire of the students, but also with the space that we had available in Mystic Market there.”

The two new chains will be the only third-party food outlets at UVic, and the first since Tim Horton’s operated on campus in the mid-2000s. Both vendors will be required to hire CUPE 917 members to keep in line with UVic’s regulations for its own operations.

The decision is one that is seemingly at odds with UVic’s promotion of Food Services as fully independent and “in house,” but Purcell says that’s not the way things have been for a while.

“The notion that this is the first or that we don’t currently have third-party vendors on campus is a bit of a misnomer,” said Purcell, clarifying that the university already has third-party-provided sushi and a relationship with Hothouse Pizza.

“There seems to be the sentimental ideology that, yes, UVic is 100 per cent in house and that it does everything by itself. I would argue that . . . things were getting stale.”

Kevin Tupper, UVSS director of finance & operations, added that the benefits of more choices outweigh any drawbacks.

“I think that any time we see an expansion in the services offered for students, and an increase in the quality and diversity of the options, I think students have won,” said Tupper. “I think it’s one where students . . . wanted this change. And speaking to David Purcell, there was a very extensive consultation process with students, and for [Food Services] to come to the decision to open up to brands is one that was made on the wishes of students.”

Purcell believes that the introduction of independent chains will let UVic Food Services better focus on their own offerings, therefore allowing them to increase the quality of their own food and add more vegetarian and vegan options.

“The intent is not that we’re going to become a brand-centric food offering,” Purcell said, “but bringing these types of vendors in allows us the time and resources to focus on our in-house offering. That’s one of the reasons we did it.”