Expansion plans extend food queues

By Larisha Apete

Students at the University of Essex are becoming increasingly unhappy with the snail-paced queues at the university’s food facilities. One student claims that “the food is great, but I can’t just go there in between lectures, I haven’t got that kind of time”. However, is this down to poor service or could it be a consequence of the university’s plans of expansion?

In 2015 the university announced plans to increase student intake by 50% by 2019, after the government lifted its cap on student recruitment. Since then we’ve seen a £21 million investment in a brand-new business centre, the construction of the £26 million student centre and more recently the construction of the Knowledge Gateway’s Innovation Centre and newest campus accommodation, ‘The Copse’ – both of which open autumn this year.

The Innovation centre will provide 2000 research jobs and ‘The Copse’ is set to house 634 undergraduate students. However, the university has yet to mention any plans of increasing the quantity or capacity of food facilities on campus. With there currently being 1 food outlet per every 1000 students, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a quick meal.

Recently, students have reported waiting times up to 15 minutes at the popular American diner, Buffalo Joe’s. Who with its central location had once been thought to be the prime spot for a quick bite to eat. However, some students reveal that they must think twice before choosing the restaurant. One student stated that staff are “doing their best” but can only prepare food so quickly for the huge volume of students coming in and suggested the use of larger fryers. The diner isn’t the only place where long queues have been spotted. Popular stops such as Refresh, and the campus stores have also seen students having to wait long amounts of time to receive service. When speaking to the Connor Dowd, general manager of Essex Food, the company operating the university’s food facilities, he stated “with any future plans of any buildings if the food could be taken into consideration it would be greatly appreciated”. He then went on to say that they “are coping with the numbers but it’s quite tight for table space and chairs”. When asked about what the university is currently doing to combat this issue he explained that “estates have been helpful with us trying to increase areas offering food with places such as Fusion, Canteena and the bus. He said that “it [the university] does work well in coping with those numbers but some of the buildings we’re working in at the moment are quite dated and the space we have for cooking fresh food is quite limited”. In regard to future plans he stated that “in an ideal world to match those numbers having more kitchen space in the future would allow [them] to offer more varied products”.
Deputy vice-chancellor, Jules pretty has stated that he aims to expand to a total of 15,000 students and declared that if successful the university could reach up to 20,000 students, the figure the first vice-chancellor Albert Solomon had dreamt of 50 years ago. As the university continues to expand, students worry they’d soon have to find off-campus alternatives, which could mean a decline in the use of campus food outlets.

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