When considering whether the new stores opened by Dining Services are worth the money spent to build them, students need to ask whether these new stores really meet any sort of demand. Do we really want these stores, and if not, what do we want instead?
The new Scotty’s store by UCR’s medical school is a nice enough building, touting an outdoor venue, a fairly eclectic collection of healthy and organic foods and most of all, high prices. Though it’s fortunate that the first two points are under the control of the UCR administration, the latter is lamentably subject to consistently steep prices for organic food production that will always roll over onto the consumer.
While it’s great that Dining Services has chosen to open a store focusing on health food, price does act as a significant deterrent to younger consumers like those present on a college campus. A 2012 study showed that while 46 percent of food expenditures for those under 25 occurred away from home, they spent an average of $1,900 less than other age groups. Though this age group ate out more than others, this lower average would suggest that college-age students are more likely to eat out at places with less expensive food and service.
The placement of the new Scotty’s on campus is also somewhat questionable, pushed somewhat far into the science buildings. While it makes some sense that the store dedicated to healthier eating options would be located in close proximity to the School of Medicine, this limits the amount of people who regularly cross the path of the store to primarily science majors and possibly some dorm residents. It could therefore limit the sales that the store would receive from those of other majors who are willing to spend their income on a healthier dining option.
Even though the new Scotty’s store faces these problems, it is apparent that UCR Dining Services is taking steps to ensure students can be provided with more beneficial food options than what is available on the rest of campus. If this store manages to turn the profit that is hoped, it would provide a nice change of pace to see these on campus with greater frequency. For instance, though it isn’t near the School of Medicine, the area around Olmsted Hall and the Psychology Building is lacking in food presence and could greatly benefit from a place to eat closer than the Barn. Working like a fruit stand, the new version of Scotty’s could be a cheaper alternative to having to create all-new restaurants in the parts of campus that have thus far been neglected.
Hoping that this slightly more expensive but nutritious store succeeds, it would also be nice to see a new and health-oriented restaurant on campus not organized around the grab-and-go mentality that most of the eateries in the HUB are designed for. While these restaurants serve a significant purpose — supplying people in a hurry to class or on their way back to the dorms a quick and portable meal — many students just want a place to sit and enjoy a nutritious meal with friends. It’s unfortunate, however, that this style of dining would be limited to the dining halls in the dorms and whatever healthy eating options are available at the Barn. Assuming that the health-oriented Scotty’s succeeds, there will at the very least be evidence that people are willing to pay more for more nutritious food. All that remains would be to create the restaurant-style atmosphere that our campus dining options tend to lack.
While it has its issues, the new Scotty’s is a nice step toward expanding the food options on campus. Hopefully when it succeeds these options will become available to more students than those attending classes by the science buildings — as well as opening the way for non-retail health food options separate from the hustle and bustle of dining at the HUB.