Nottingham Hospitality has introduced Starbucks brewed coffee to the Hallward Library café, replacing the fair trade filter coffee available previously. Prices have risen sharply in line with the arrival of the multi-billion dollar brand and have provoked both support and opposition within the student community.
The initially unpublicised arrival of the brand to the University’s central library has not gone unnoticed. Among those most surprised at the development are the student union executives who were only informed of a contract on the 5th of October- two weeks before its arrival on the 22nd. Executives were not consulted about the move and neither they, nor the staff of the Hallward café, were informed of the month that the agreement would come into effect. A murmur of surprise captured students on the Monday morning of its arrival with mixed reactions to the familiar brand, most people waiting longer than usual for service as staff members learnt how to use the machines.
Starbucks beans and machines are being used, replacing the previously fair-trade filter coffees with a plethora of new options such as lattes and espressos. Students opposed to the arrival of the multinational brand have launched a campaign, in protest against prices and ‘unethical Starbucks policies’ that have been widely criticised around the world. Campaigners have been serving 40p tea and coffee outside Hallward, talking to those interested and collecting almost 700 petition signatures within the first week of protest.
Campaign co-ordinator Alice Sidwell says, “we’re providing a more ethical alternative to Starbucks for students who want to continue drinking fairly traded coffee at reasonable student prices.” The campaign calls for the University’s seemingly undemocratic decision to be urgently reviewed.
As the corresponding Facebook protest group gained instant popularity, it is far harder to gauge whether people are enjoying the change. “Although it’s more expensive it’s worth it for Starbucks coffee; much better than last years stuff” says Michael, a second-year student.
A 61% increase in price (from 90p to £1.45) has been greeted with dismay by many cash-conscious students who often enjoy caffeine hits in their working day; “I’m a four-a-day guy, that’s hundreds of pounds a year!’ commented one visitor to the petition stall.
There have been a number of possible reasons for the arrival Starbucks on campus, one rumour has been that the presence of a worldwide brand will make international students feel more ‘at home’ although more cynical students believe it is purely a money making scheme. The cafe itself, however, is still run and owned by Nottingham Hospitality, and all the money it makes goes to them and indirectly to the University and not to Starbucks. As it is not a full outlet the café is known as ‘soft branded’ in that it buys beans from Starbucks and uses the Starbucks coffee machine but Starbucks do not own the space and therefore can not control the café.
After a recent meeting between the Head of Estates, Chris Jagger and the Environment and Social Justice officer Chloe Cheeseman, it has been agreed that student feedback forms will be provided in the Hallward Library cafe, to give people and opportunity to voice their opinions about Starbucks. This comes after more recent news that the Jubilee campus café may be turned into a full Starbucks outlet although the final decision for this has not been made.
by Camille Herreman