Back in March 2021 – in the midst of a global pandemic – here at Hull University Students’ Union (HUSU) we began discussions with an external firm that had the prospect of offering students a broader range of food and drink, at more affordable prices, than students could get on campus previously.
That firm was JD Wetherspoon.
The discussions took place as a result of work instigated by our Board of Trustees, who had asked whether franchising our bar operations – in a similar way that our shop is a franchise – had ever been considered.
How it came to be
At Hull we’ve always been keen to be on the forefront of change, but even for us the prospect of being the first ‘Spoons on a university was more exciting and innovative than any of us could have imagined – particularly during one of the most uncertain and difficult times for both businesses, charities, and higher education.
The deal is primarily focused on taking the business model and buying power that Wetherspoon have – and implementing those components into our SU’s licenced premises (including our venues Sanctuary and Asylum) under a franchise model.
Under the agreement, we will continue to hold the licence, manage the premises and employ the staff teams – but we’ll be able to take advantage of the economies of scale achieved by such a large company.
Student and staff impact
One of the big motivators in getting the deal done was the opportunities and advantages it would bring to our student staff. HUSU is one of the biggest employers of students in Hull, and with this new arrangement we are now able to offer even more shifts – meaning more students in employment and more money in their pockets.
Staff are also able to access the comprehensive training Wetherspoon provide and can enjoy a range of great staff benefits. Another benefit to student staff – which could really positively impact their lives – is the opportunity to work in other Wetherspoon branches across the country.
Prior to this, HUSU, like many other SUs, were closed for most of the student holiday periods but now we will be open for more of the year. This means if student staff are returning to their hometowns, they can continue to work there and have a more stable income throughout their studies.
The benefits to students are, perhaps, more obvious. A larger menu, better quality food, a wider range of drinks, and most importantly for many students, they can have all of this for a much lower price!
How is it going?
The brand-new “Wetherspoon at Sanctuary” opened on the 31st January and the buzz in the SU has been incredible. As a result of the pandemic, given students continue to work on a blended approach, Sanctuary was quiet for a period of time. It’s so nice to see the bar busy and full of students once again!
This deal is the first of its kind for Wetherspoon who have not entered into franchise agreements previously, and HUSU is now home to the first ever Wetherspoon on a university campus.
Being the first will always have its challenges, and for an SUthat prides itself on its ability to communicate effectively with students and consult student representatives on major decisions, this was new territory for all of us – but, of course, this will be simpler for those that may follow.
We hope that if it continues to go as well as it already, other SUs will likely be encouraged to obtain a similar deal by their members – and not only do we wish our colleagues the best of luck with that, we’ll of course be happy to help on making it a success.