The Student Union Society’s (SUS) Abbotsford campus coffee shop, Fair Grounds, has seen an increase in pricing of their beverages. The price increases of 10 to 65 cents were due in part, according to SUS president Gurvir Gill, to the need to “offset” some of their costs, despite the coffee shop being in the green both last financial year and this financial year.
Last November a review was undertaken by the SUS team to assess the costs associated with Fair Grounds, including packaging and ingredients. Labour costs were also looked into, as they are expected to increase; the B.C. government announced in 2017 that it would be increasing minimum wage from $11.35 to $15.20 an hour by June 2021.
Price increases were set for all beverages except for steamed milk and loose leaf tea, which stayed the same, and certain mocha beverages — specifically, the 16 and 20 oz. mochas — saw a 15 to 30 cent decrease. Increases for 16 oz. drinks ranged from 10 cents for an Americano, to 20 cents for a drip coffee, to 50 cents for a chai tea latte.
Along with the price changes, several new items were brought in. Pizza pretzels, baked pretzels, and samosas were added to the food menu. For cold beverages, a 20 oz. option was added, along with two drinks: raspberry lemonade and pina colada smoothies.
This was the first price increase in three to four years, according to Gill, who added that although the cafe was making money this financial year, sometimes price increases are necessary for a business.
“What we do as an organization is serving the membership, but the coffee outlet is it a business, right? It’s not a service, right? If it was the service, I think it would be probably just be free in a sense,” Gill said.
The price increase would see an initial cost for students, staff, and faculty, but Gill said the SUS would look into using any surplus to expand programming, such as student orientations or the advanced leadership programming, or possibly increasing food or beverage options.
As part of the assessment, the SUS also compared their pricing to what Gill said was Fair Grounds competition, naming Starbucks and Waves Cafe as examples of similar business models.
“So when we’re looking at our pricing, our pricing [was and is] lower than reasonable competition. Like, where else do students get their coffees?” Gill said. “So there was a little bit of wiggle room because we offer a high end quality, we offer our high-end beverages, and everything we do is biodegradable and compostable.”
Even with the price increases, Fair Grounds is less expensive for most beverages than Starbucks, though there is neither a Starbucks nor a Waves Cafe on campus. The nearest Waves Cafe is in Chilliwack, a short walk from the CEP campus that does not host a Fair Grounds cafe.
On campus, the Indigenous-owned, organic, and fair trade Spirit Bean cafe is around the same price as Fair Grounds. Drip coffee at Spirit Bear is 15 cents higher than Fair Grounds, but a latte is 50 cents cheaper and a chai tea latte is 70 cents cheaper. Nearly all equivalent beverages offered by the chain coffee shop Tim Hortons have lower prices than the new prices at Fair Grounds.
Image: David Myles/The Cascade