Why are things changing?

In the past couple of months, the Union and College have been working together to gather a lot of data on food services through surveys, such as the Student Experience Survey (SES), Meat Free Monday (MFM) survey, and Catering feedback form, as well as through informal conversations and listening to what was popular in student elections. With over 3,100 responses, food choice and price were ranked as the most important factors to students. Meanwhile, in the 2018 Leadership Elections, multiple candidates ran on manifestos which promised to work on altering the food selection available on campus. The Union has worked hard with College to take this feedback and act on it, improving current catering services, introducing deals, and investing in new outlets – all launching over the next few months!

So, what’s new this term?

Meal deals! Following student feedback, and the successful implementation of meal deals in the Union’s newsagent ‘Shop Extra’, College Catering is introducing meal deals to the Junior Common Room (JCR) shop. Matching Union prices, you can get a sandwich/wrap/bagel/pasta pot with crisps/fruit and a canned drink or water, for only £3.50 for students! Additionally, fresh hot dogs will also be appearing in the JCR shop too. All these new options will be released on Monday 4th March.

As well as new additions to the JCR shop, there will also be some changes to h-bar. The h-bar College dinner café service will be extended from Monday-Thursday to Monday-Friday 5-7pm, ensuring a dinner option will be available to Postgraduates, Undergraduates, and staff every night of the week. This change is to be implemented on 4th March, following the recent announcement that College Catering will be stopping its h-bar evening bar food. The Union is pushing back on College on the decision to cease this service, and the Deputy President (Finance & Services) has requested the finances in order to scrutinise the decision. Additionally, the Union will be conducting research in the next few weeks with the postgraduates and staff to identify what aspects of h-bar are most important, feedback on the food and drink, and how the offering could be improved to encourage more people to use the venue. This data will strengthen the case the Union will make to the College to pressure them into continuing to provide bar food and help better tailor the offering to the users at the same time. The Union is also prepared to work with College to discuss alternative options to try and minimise the impact on everyone who uses the bar, while also not compromising the long-term offering to you. This could include the Union taking over the evening kitchen to provide food to the students, however this option would take longer to implement, requiring additional resources.

Another change involves the introduction of a waffle station at the h-bar café lunch. From 4th March, you will be able to witness waffles being freshly-made right in front of you at the new waffle station, before having your choice of toppings to cover it in! This is being trialled as a response to user feedback to College Catering around the dessert choices.

The developments don’t just stop there. Put Monday 18th March in your diaries because a pizza place is coming to campus! With several departments specifically highlighting the demand for pizza amongst their students and requesting it be offered, as well as being one of the most ordered takeaway foods ordered on campus according to survey, it was no surprise it was the favourite food option in the Summer Ball food poll, winning with 65.9%. The Union had been working with College to install a pizza vending machine for the past few months, before the idea was expanded into a full pizza shop. Following this, ‘Neo Pizza’ will be replacing ‘Fuel’ in the JCR, offering options of slices, whole pizzas and meal deals. A whole 12” pizza will cost £7 for students, subsidised by College, with staff price equalling £8.40 and visitor price being £9.33. The meal deals will cost students £3.50, again subsidised by College, and include a slice of pizza with a side salad and a canned drink. Meanwhile, the salad bar will be relocating to the JCR shop on the other side of the JCR, where you will still be able to customise your own salad boxes.

Due to the changes, Fuel will be closing after 12th March. From 13th - 15th March, all students will be able to use the Senior Common Room (SCR) for meals and to access the salad bar there, covering the gap between ‘Fuel’ shutting and the new JCR shop salad bar opening.

What’s already been introduced?

Some changes have already slowly been introduced since January. The SCR has a brand new salad bar, for which the demand was recognised through student and staff feedback collected verbally and online, as well as the SES survey highlighting the desire for healthier options. On top this, popular food items have also been introduced on campus. The JCR shop has added giant sausage rolls into their hot food cabinets, and the JCR Deli now serves hot meat sandwiches.

The Library Café has also refreshed its look, introduced an express queue for cold foods following feedback on speed of service, and started serving more freshly cooked food rather than heating up frozen items in the oven [photo below]. Not the only café to change, the Queens Tower Rooms (QTR) has now become a dedicated hub to Asian cuisine, with speciality chefs, alongside the usual meal deals.

Will there be more changes next term?

You’ve probably already heard me hint that a plant-based café is coming to campus. Borne out of student demand for healthier food expressed in the Student Experience Survey, as well as Meat Free Monday highlighting the lack of hot vegan and veggie dishes available on the South Kensington campus, the Union and College are working together to launch a plant-based café at the start of Summer Term, located where College Café currently is. Taking inspiration from various restaurants and cafés around London on aspects of menu, flavour, layout and sustainability, this café will serve hot and cold vegan dishes, sandwiches, and drinks, alongside a hydration station of free naturally flavoured waters. New dishes for this outlet are currently being trialled in the SCR. If you have a dish you love/hate, then let College know by filling out the feedback form: . Eco-friendly reusable Tupperware will also be available to purchase at this café, with bonus Yoyo points being awarded if you use this Tupperware or bring your own, instead of using a disposable box. This reinforces Greening Imperial’s campaign to raise awareness of our individual environmental impact, and also increase the university’s overall sustainability.

College Café will remain open until the Easter Holidays, with the last day of service being 17th April, before being transformed into this new plant-based café! The fresh, hot, meat sandwiches, currently served in College Café, have already slowly begun migrating over to the JCR Deli in preparation for this change.

So, what else does 2019 bring? Rumours say Pieminister will be replaced by Starbucks in the Autumn Term! But don’t worry, the pies won’t be going far… they’re just moving into the hot cabinets in the JCR shop too.