Starting from 3 January, the Library Café is serving drinks provided by Costa Coffee. Alongside the new coffee brand, library visitors can now treat themselves to sweets from Planet Doughnut. During the first week of the relaunch, there have been drink discounts, giveaways, and samples to encourage customers to try out the new cafe.
Renovation took place over the winter break in accordance with the new catering contract that was signed in August 2023. Reasons cited by a University of Sussex spokesperson for the change in service included reducing the bottleneck that restricted the customer flow and increased wait times, as well as providing new brands on campus. A survey at the end of 2022 of 2,080 students and 1,175 staff showed that almost 40% of respondents wanted to see new additions on campus. Costa was one of the high street names that people wanted the most. “We hope that this new-look Library Café gives people what they’re looking for… people told us they wanted Costa, so we made that part of our winning bid,” said Mark Lawrence from the University’s catering partners Sussex Uni Food.
The refurbishment is a part of the “Creating a better campus” programme. In a 2022 statement, Vice-Chancellor Sasha Roseneil expressed that the University seeks service providers whose commitments to equality, diversity, and environmental sustainability align with the institutional values. However, there is a lot of controversy surrounding the high-street chain Costa Coffee. According to the Ethical Consumer Magazine, Costa has lobbied against the disposable cup surcharge in the past and has the lowest rating amongst other coffee brands on the ethics score table. In addition, the BBC has reported poor working conditions within the business. Complaints made by employees include managers’ refusal to pay for sickness or annual leave, working outside of contracted hours, and the retention of tips.
The company has received the biggest backlash in light of the recent Israel-Palestine conflict. Costa is owned by Coca-Cola, a company which allegedly supports Israel. A Sussex student has addressed this concern in the comment section of Sussex Uni Food’s Instagram profile, however, the catering partner defended its decision by emphasising that Costa was survey respondents’ “number one choice.”