The possibility of a major international chain gracing our humble Market Square is a much-needed boost for an increasingly dreary part of campus. This commercial zone was once a major selling point of a university complex that is otherwise isolated from the amenities of the city centre, in stark contrast to York’s many metropolitan rivals.
Just two years ago, the Square was populated by a wide variety of businesses, from holiday and insurance companies to a low-cost computer sales and repair shop. Since then, though, high rents and low takings have driven out all but the mainstay outlets Costcutter, Your:Shop and Blackwells. And, given the current economic climate, this state of affairs appears unlikely to change anytime soon.
However, the Square is in desperate need of reinvigorating, and with over 30,000 restaurants worldwide including 1000 in the UK, Subway is just the sort of company that can afford to absorb the university’s prohibitive rent rates and gamble on the lucrative student market. With 13,000 students, York does not exactly boast the largest concentration of young people, but setting up on a largely untapped campus remains an attractive commercial proposition.
After all, students will continue to need sandwiches, recession or no recession. And the current offerings of Costcutter and Your:Shop are largely uninspiring and (especially in the case of the former) often overpriced. Yet these shops continue to rake it in because they are all that we have, and although the latter is an important revenue source for YUSU, a bit of competition would be no bad thing.
Those in charge need to think fresh.
The proposal to open a Subway in the Market Square seems to me to be a flawed idea. Part of going to university is about experiencing new things. While where you eat your lunch might seem insignificant, it is an ideal opportunity to spread your horizons and not remain limited to the mass chain stores that are widespread in every town and city.
Whatever the company claims, Subway is a fast food chain. The image that Subway presents is very different to the truth; it is an aggressive, multi-national, consumer based company that is driven by profit margins. This is highlighted by the company’s target to open 2010 stores in the UK and Ireland by 2010.
Subway is an expensive alternative for lunch. Aside from their £1.99 Sub of the Day deal, their 6” subs can cost up to £3.50. If combined with a drink and a snack, it could easily cost up to £5 for lunch. Not something that the average student could afford. It is after all something which we could all make at home for a fraction of the cost.
Subway market their food as a healthier alternative to the food offered in other fast food chains. While to a certain extent this is true, it would be wrong to call Subway food healthy. Using the nutritional information available on the Subway website, only the Veggie Delite sub contains fewer calories than a McDonald’s hamburger. Moreover, at 520 calories per serving, a 6” Meatball Marinara contains more calories than a Big Mac.
I am not against Subway, but I am against the aggressive commercialisation of campus.