Fast food on campus

The novelty of having a trendy, fast food outlets on a university campus is fun at first.

“Look, our uni has Burger Urge, Boost, Subway, etc, etc. What does your uni have? Oh? Only a cafeteria? How nomadic! We’ve had those for years!”

Reality check: That cafeteria probably charges the same price. Chances are they will have menu items that they regularly rotate. Plus their chips probably come with aioli rather than “gravy”/brown sludge.

“Oh,” you say, “You mean, so-and-so’s new exciting limited edition menu item isn’t exciting enough for you?”

Well, no. That limited edition menu item is the same as before but now it has a slice of tomato. Or it’s a chicken parmigiana instead of a chicken schnitzel.  Plus, that limited edition menu item usually has a fair whack of increased pricing because it’s “limited”.

The lucrative appeal of having food that comes wrapped with branding and fun bright colours and has “value” meals is beyond ridiculous. Students, who often work part-time jobs whilst struggling with uni fees, travel fees, rent, still have to report regularly to Centrelink to obtain Youth Allowance AND yet barely have enough to feed oneself let alone enough a decent night out WILL NOT be wanting to pay $10 for a value meal with large chips and a large soft drink. Will not be wanting to eat enough sodium, sugar and Calories in one sitting that will leave them sick and lethargic for the rest of the day.

For those that don’t enjoy making their own lunch, even they, I doubt will want to alternate between Burger Urge, Souvlaki Hut and Subway day in, day out. And sure as hell, not week after week. Check out this recent Fast Food challenge at the University of Newcastle in which it was shown that healthy food was more appealing and cheaper than their fast food counterparts.

Recently, I’ve found out that Max Brenner, yes, that bald chocolate man will be bringing his sugary, expensive drinks and desserts to UQ St Lucia.

Now, let’s forget the pricing here. Even if the richest of the rich students could afford to eat here, even twice a week, the health benefits at Max Brenner are few and far between. It’s not that we need another cafe with almost 8 or so cafes already on campus PLUS coffee carts.

What happened to feeding quick, fast and healthy food? And DON’T you try to counter that argument with “Eat Fresh” from Subway.

I am huge on making your own healthy, cheap lunches but even then. Short of students making their own lunches, the options on campus make me sick. And poor. And sick of making me poor. It’s like they’re forcing us to opt for the “cheap $2 sausage sizzle” that whatever organisation is holding one that day.

Whilst I understand that variety is the key to life, apart from turning our universities into one big, giant centre for big, giant corporations, how about a change of pace? Doing something that will actually benefit the students who pay tens of thousands of dollars in fees to keep universities going.

Sure, the uni may have in recent years done an overhaul of the cafeteria, making them cleaner, with brighter, harsher lighting and colourful signage – the food has maintained that sad, uniform coloured standard. How about an overhaul of cafeteria food? Make it more affordable. Expand the salads, add more variety, make it so that the “affordable” options aren’t just as unhealthy as the fast food options. Make them more attractive, because, hell, the big chains certainly aren’t holding back in that department as they blast too-loud top 40 tracks. How do you make a choice when you have a pie with chips and gravy in a white paper bag versus a gourmet burger from a place that plays fun music and it comes in a more colourful cardboard box with a paper bag.

In summary, I’m angry about:

  • Giant corporations taking over the uni – how about letting in some local businesses and letting them gain exposure to hungry students.
  • Prices that the uni thinks that students can afford to pay for sub-par “sometimes” food and decreasing the number of cheap options
  • Low standards of cafeteria/cheaper option foods on campus

On a positive note, I’ll get around to a follow-up blog with some lunchbox ideas that are cheap and tasty for students. Things that fuelled me through my 12-hour days.


6 thoughts on “Fast food on campus

  1. QUT now has a Guzman y Gomez, Boost, Origin Kebabs, Teppanyaki Time (which it’s had for quite a while), Subway, sushi place, salad place (which hardly has any patrons), Burger Urge and a plethora of cafes serving mediocre coffee and variations on sandwiches. Most of these are due to the new Science and Engineering Centre being opened with a brand new food court in it.

    The campus I visited at the University of Helsinki had a small cafeteria that served a rotating range of options such as soups, fish casserole, sausage stew, vegetable bakes, pasta, etc. had milk _on tap_ and had unlimited bread (loaves of different grains, no cheap white sandwich bread) for reasonable prices.

    Universities could feed their students good food if they wanted to but I don’t think our culture is the same as in Finland or even the USA with their school cafeterias (which, admittedly, serve terrible food). It’s easier to get someone else to do it.


      • Yeah, it’s going to be difficult for a somewhat new, local, small business to expand into a university food court. I’m quite happy with the mix we have at QUT but I earn more than students would. I can afford to eat GyG somewhat regularly (but still am not fond of spending heaps of money on lunch).


  2. Back 7 years ago, the cafeteria was the only option. Bring your own or spend a lot for sandwiches. Better option – go to a supermarket deli and for less than $5 get two rolls, ham and cheese – simple.

    Complaining about choice is rubbish. Buy or make your own. We live in an age with ice packs. Easy to pack a lunch.

    More affordable is not going to happen. Fact. Get used to it. Prices won’t ever go down, despite our best hopes. I’m glad I’m not a current Uni student, but I’m sure many prior to me have been saying that before me.


    • I agree with some of your points. I’m not really complaining about having choices but more that we could be given better options. Or at the least stuff that isn’t expensive. Having a Max Brenner is excessive when we already have other cafés.


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