High street vs campus

TUCO research looks at the price divide between universities and the high street

Across universities there is an ongoing challenge to make the catering offer more attractive than the high street. At TUCO, we recommend our members regularly benchmark against their competitors for all aspects of the customer experience – from the food served and trends considered, to the design of an outlet and the pricing – to ensure their facilities stand out to students and encourage them to stay on campus.

To support with this, we run annual benchmarking research which specifically looks at the price divide between universities and the high street. This year was our largest-ever study and the findings revealed that, on average, the price of food and drink on the high street has increased over the past year, while on campuses it has decreased for comparable products. The most notable difference is in high-street shops, where prices have risen by a staggering 48.8% compared to a fall of -4.1% at university shops.

Another big area of disparity is cafés, where costs at high-street outlets are up by an average 17.6% compared to 7% on campuses. Hot beverages in particular are consistently more expensive from the high street, with a regular cappuccino costing £2.20 compared to under £2 at universities. It’s a similar situation for bottled water, which can be purchased for under a pound at universities but for an average of £1.59 on the high street.

The research also highlights a north/south price divide at universities with southerners subject to significantly higher bills for items such as a glass of house white wine or pre-boxed salads, while northerners are being asked to pay more for a bacon roll or energy drink.

Through conducting this research, we’re able to keep our members informed of the price movements between universities and the high street and support them in providing true value for money – something which is of high importance to price-conscious students. As we head towards a new academic year, now is the time for university caterers to review their pricing and ensure they have the edge over their neighbours in the ongoing price war.

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