February 27, 2017 2:45 pm

Welcome back to Semester One 2017 – the most exciting year ever for university retail. As the groundswell of the food revolution on the high streets and in the shopping centres overflows to our campuses we prepare for the boundless opportunities to raise the student experience, improve amenity and drive longer stays for a stickier campus.

Brain&Poulter has a long and successful history of issuing annual F&B forecasts and so it is with excitement that we share with you our inaugural Top 5 predictions for retail across Asia Pacific Universities.

So let’s get stuck into the predictions and help you prepare or update your campus retail, commercial masterplans and asset plans for 2017 to take advantage of these market moving opportunities.


With 6 out of 10 Millennials no longer carrying cash there is no retail environment more impacted than the university campus. While there are simple activities like ensuring a lease dictates a retailer must offer EFTPOS facilities, (can you believe only 60% of food retailers have EFTPOS – meaning lost sales on campus for sure!) there are wider implications to the on campus retail strategy.


Get used to this sight. Tap and go payments are here to stay

To start with, banks and ATM machines will start to move from being a CORE retail category to include in the retail mix and slip into SECONDARY or even TERTIARY rankings.

But the cashless campus presents many opportunities. Take for example the huge leaps being made in vending technology due to tap and go functionality for retailing of stationary, devices, clothing as well as broader food selections. These vending advances are extremely useful as part of the retail strategy, especially at campuses with enrolment numbers <15,000 coupled with longer opening hours of new buildings, libraries etc it will allow for a broader retail offer being delivered in a financial viable model.

With vending of chips, softdrinks and lollies contributing ~10% of the total F&B spend on campus, the potential for increased retail sales through broader vending offers is exponential.

Imagine too a university badged debit/credit card that allows better data capture of student spending on campus and a broader offering being available. The card could also be used to load SAFF funding that could be spent across a range of independent food operators on campus rather than just in the traditional refectories. B&P has arrangements in place with a debit card producer if you’re interested in pursuing this opportunity.


The Millennial generation’s focus on social and environmental issues is now playing out in their retail purchasing behaviours. University management and retailers on campus will need to ensure adequate communication to customers as to items such as:

  • Source of their products
  • Animal welfare of meats they serve
  • Food miles associated with menu lines
  • Sustainability of catching methods used by suppliers
  • Waste management practices for left overs
  • Environmental packaging management program

B&P has developed an on line checklist for all these items to help you audit where you are with all these issues and some ideas on what you can add to your “to do” list to ensure you retain the highest levels of student engagement with campus retail services. It includes initiatives such as “reverse vending” where you feed in cans for recycling rather than spitting out cans for consumption.


Retailers and products that appeal to Millennials strong social and environmental conscience will come out on top.


B&P now has a body of evidence that demonstrates the ability for high street brands such as Subway, Boost, Tank, Starbucks, BurgerUrge, GyG etc to be able to trade profitably on campus despite the restricted trading hours and weeks compared to high street or shopping centre locations. Frequently, because of the laser focus on Millennial food preferences, these brands, when on campus, perform in the Top 10 for sales in their state.

Likewise, B&P’s tender assistance package is helping many campuses attract great local and independent operators to come on campus and enjoy the benefits of trading to a well targeted audience.


GYG at the UNSW campus. A independent success story. Image by John Matlioski

A great example of innovative independents on campus is Moustache Milk and Cookie Bar at The University of Auckland. This neat concept requires only a small retail footprint with its focus on milk based hot and cold drinks and modern cookie combinations. It fits perfectly into the “sweet treat” offering in the tertiary component of a well thought out tenancy mix. The tenancy adds real colour and life to the campus retail offer with an “on trend” response to the sweet tooth needs of the younger generation.

An increase in the use of independents on campus is in complete opposition to the US University model that relies on appointing a single operator to deliver all residential and retail food experiences on campus. B&P’s view is that the Pan Pacific region is much better than the US in developing brands where both the menus and the store designs are far superior to our US cousins and more aligned to the expectations of the consumers. Our data also indicates that sales generated by independents in the Asia Pacific Universities far outweighs the spends per head and student engagement achieved by catering companies or Student Unions and Guilds on campus. Therefore, determining a single or multiple operator model for each campus should be assessed on a case by case basis to identify opportunities to improve retail engagement.


Coming off the back of the surge in campus residential developments and a desire for more Universities to engage with the community around them, we predict more and more Universities will look to develop a “University Town” approach to their planning that will see more permeability between the campus edge and the surrounding neighbourhood.

Of course, one of the most common ideas for this from campus masterplanners is to seek to build a high street between the heart and the edge of campus complete with supermarket, al fresco dining and mixed use buildings above the ground floor plane.

This commendable vision still needs to be built on reality and metrics to ensure viability. Changing consumer’s behaviour as to how they drive to buy groceries can take years, so the idea to include supermarkets inside campus grounds needs to be clearly assessed to determine the size and scale of a town centre development. However, it is exciting times if the numbers stack up!


Could we see an expansion of the typical university ‘town centre’ to  engage the wider community? Only time will tell. Image by David Sievers.


One of the ideas posed at TEMC in Auckland last year was the concept of the student taking their lectures and tutorials at home and attending campus to study – a reverse of the present system. This possibility throws up a new challenge for campus retail planning and can dovetail into a Town Centre strategy. To accommodate study on campus, weather proofed, climate controlled seating zones, with multiple seating experiences and configurations and supported by office style amenities and longer trading retail services becomes an essential part of the strategy. The Hub at Flinders University is an excellent showcase of this thinking and how it can boost on campus numbers, collaboration, and create vibrancy after hours.


Flinders University Hub is a beautiful addition of study space and catering to the needs of the ‘reverse campus’. Image by Peter Barnes.

So there you have it folks – a raft of inspiration and potential solutions to on campus retail for 2017 and beyond. To help you with your planning, B&P is offering a 30 minute one on one discussion of these trends for any University personnel involved in campus planning or retail management. Click here to make a booking or call us on +61 (2) 8231 5799 to discuss your campus in greater detail.