Travel Editor Josie Hart investigates the disappearance of a favourite student snack and discovers the power of the voice of the public
Being catered for by an external corporate provider, students have often claimed that the provision of food on campus is detached from their needs. However, in the context of the introduction of some new, more affordable options this year, and also kick-started by an investigation into the removal of the rocky road from the Library Café, we set out to investigate how you are, and can be, implicated in decisions surrounding the food provided on campus.
UoB food outlets are renowned for their traybakes. If you are yet to try them yet, they’re the perfect 3pm pick me up after a long day in the library and the perfect thing to be munching on over coffee with a friend. The display case selection includes a range of freshly baked goods from muffins and pastries to flapjacks and brownies. Given the volume of students visiting food outlets on campus every day, it’s really quite remarkable that the staff are able to provide these freshly baked products each day.
Whilst many outlets like GoCentral, the Undercroft café and the Mason Lounge café, to name a few, house the traybakes, the Library Café remains the most popular location. Whilst there have in the past been questions about the affordability of food on campus, you only have to pass to see the queue out the door to confirm the popularity of the products available. With tray bakes costing an average of around £1.50, they often sell out.
One of the staple products in the regular selection is the rocky road. A mix of creamy chocolate, marshmallows and an added surprising chew with a Malteser, the rocky road is felt by many students to be one of the best fresh bakes on sale. It was therefore the removal of the rocky road from the Library Café stock that led us to question how much attention is paid to student opinion and how stock decisions are made.
The Library Café actually has a suggestion box allowing students to give feedback. This is regularly checked, with submissions receiving a response within a week. It was in response to our rocky road related submission that we discovered that the stock is in fact changed around each semester. This semester, the rocky road had been replaced by a jam roulade slice and a Viennese sandwich. A representative told us that the rocky road was set to be reintroduced in January on trial. But in fact, stock is chosen in relation to what is selling and what students want. The removal of the rocky road was on account of it not selling out, thus the conclusion that it wasn’t a popular traybake and the decision to remove it from this particular outlet. Also considering the introduction of new cheaper options, like the new baguettes in the Library Café, it can be seen that close attention is paid to what students are buying and what they want on an outlet by outlet basis across campus.
Nonetheless, the issue remained that many students seemed confused by the removal of a widely considered favourite product. One student said, ‘It was the only thing that got me through exams and I wish I was joking.’ Another said, ‘Why would they take the rocky road? That’s the best traybake they have.’
Taking this matter to a representative from the Library Café, through the email that the complaint form was replied to through, they assured us that they’re ‘Always here to help and keep our students satisfied.’ On this account, the rocky road returned to the Library Café on a trial basis.
Overall, through starting a rocky road revolution, it’s been discovered that if you made your opinions heard, change will happen. The staff acted swiftly on account of the contact we made; the favourite university treat has been reinstated. However, given that this is a trial, I urge you to give the rocky road a try over the coming weeks to join the movement voicing our foodie needs to university providers!