Coffee and the need of Student-run Café in Dawson


Coffee plays an important role in people’s daily life. Drinking Coffee helps us to concentrate more on study, work, be more energetic, and lift up the mood. Café is an ideal place to refresh our minds, meet up with friends or family, enjoy some moments on reading, writing alone, or having a discussion with the study partners.

Coffee association of Canada tells us that “Coffee is Canada’s most consumed beverage among adults – even more than tap water. And two thirds of adult Canadians enjoy at least one cup of coffee a day with the average at 3.2 cups/day”. According to CAC’s coffee trends study on 2015, we know that it is pretty common people have coffee in the coffee shops or restaurants, or at work. The consumption of coffee in Canada is very astonishing.

There were 1,358 Starbucks stores as of 2015, and there are more than 3,588 Tim Hortons locations in Canada. More and more café open around the street corner. Those coffee shops do not only provide coffee, but also offer some pastry such as muffins, croissants, donuts, biscuits or grab and go food like sandwiches, wraps. It is quite popular to purchase food where people drink their coffee. Especially for students who have coffee and food often, and study in the café. It is a big consumption group cannot be ignored. A student café in the campus should be run by students themselves in order to provide good quality of coffee and fresh healthy meal with an affordable price and the respect to environment, social sustainability in food services. Specifically, for a pubic college with a large number of students such as Dawson, a student-run café is significant.

Firstly, a student-run café creates job opportunities. It is a great chance for students to get involved in the student community space, achieve experience in food service, customer service and management, improve their communication skills and benefit from a cross culture space.  Secondly, it will be a great learning opportunity about coffee, food and management for students.  There are various kinds of coffee imported to Canada from over 30 countries in the world, the supply chain includes seeding, transportation, roasting and so on. There are also many simple food recipes applied in the café. For instance, students will learn which kind of flour, sugar, vegetables, dairy products are used, and how they are imported to Montreal, what the ingredients are and how much nutrition in the food. The more knowledge they get about coffee and food, the more they will concern about eating habits when it comes to make a decision between processed food products and healthy food options. Furthermore, running a café is a practical way for students who study in business, management, science programs to apply their knowledge from books to reality. Some information or knowledge can be shared at a café based platform. A community vibe in the campus can be created. Student café is not just a place to have coffee, but also can be a place for students to study, make friends, social and communicate with each other. Enjoy a coffee break, having some food and refreshing mind is a convenient way to kill sometime between classes. Now, in Dawson cafeteria, Tim hortons sells coffee, and food company Quesada sells tacos and burritos. Around the college, there are neighbours such as Mc Donald’s, Starbucks and other fast food brands in the food court. This situation weakens the student community feelings. What’s more, student-run café provides the possibility of less paper cups, sustainability for environment and marketing. Within the campus, café plays a critical role for keeping the space cleaned and contributing into protecting the environment. For example, a lower coffee price can be offered if people use their own mugs for coffee instead of paper cups.  People can write down reviews for the coffee, food or the decorations in the cafeteria when they visit, so the service can be improved. Some other strategies could be used to encourage students to pay more attention to the café industry. For instance, Dawson students can enjoy free coffee if they volunteer and make efforts to maintain the cafeteria cleaned and organized. A win-win situation benefits the students and the environment at the same time. Last but not the least, student-run café can provide cheaper coffee on campus, fresh food made of healthy ingredients because it is the choice of students themselves. Ingredients can be brought from local small produces, community gardens or local markets. Without the high technology food process and complicated marketing and food chains, the cost of food materials could be controlled in the certain range. Different kinds of sandwiches, local organic salads, hot soups, fresh baked pastry and brewed coffee can be chosen to meet students’ needs instead of processed food and fast food. The food quality and value of healthy ingredients will be ensured.

This year, students in sustainability department from Dawson Student Union held a free coffee event name “Bring your own mug” from November 8th to 10th in Conrod’s where is next to the Dawson cafeteria. They made the first try to bring people’s attentions into the idea of student-run café and sustainability in school. From the interview with the director of sustainability in DSU Annie Quadros, who was in charge of the event, we know that there are many students really concern about the quality of food and coffee offered by the food companies in school at this moment from sustainability aspect and food security aspect in the student community. Quadros says that this event is not just about the coffee, but also about the awareness of the waste of paper cups, the importance of student-run café and school community. The coffee they chose was from Santropol, which is now one of the first coffee roasters in the world to help build and to register with the first and only fair trade system created, governed and owned by small producers in the South.  In this event, Santropol offered organic and fair trade certified gourmet coffee for free in order to execute the mission of spreading the idea of sustainability. This coffee event was the first time DSU tried to attract people’s attentions to aware the need of student-run café. It was successful held and they received many feedbacks from students in the college. They would like to continue this event next term and make step by step movement towards to the goal of student-run café as what students are expecting.

However, the idea of student-run cafeteria is facing some challenges for us to carry out. First of all, the turnover of students each year is too fast to continue the plan of running the cafeteria. Not like universities, academic years in college are much shorter in fact. A third party such as a coordinator, a teacher, or an organization is needed to connect the different of groups so that the program can be continued effectively. Also, the competition of café is very strong around the school. As what mentioned before, the campus is surrounded by many fast food brands, restaurants, café due to its location. People has the tendency to stay comforts of buying coffee from the chain brands. It’s critical to change the way people consume and consideration. According to the interview with Quadros, the education aspect of food security and sustainability should be improved. People is used to stay in the comfort zone psychotically and go to the place they usually go without considering the price, food quality, and environment. A marketing research must be done to find out how to compensate the needs and the supply. Furthermore, a well-planned structure and space to execute the plan are missing. The contract between food catering company Chartwells and the college prevents the support to student-run café practically. Indeed, an effective and valuable proposal should be provided in order to convince the administration in school to choose what the best is for students. However, it is an undeniable fact that it is hard to start executing the plan without an ideal space where is occupied by the third party at this moment. The plan of transformation a non-profit organization into profitable in a long term should be well structured in order to benefit the student community, the students.

Student cafeteria is the space where students spend lots of time in a day, an ideal place for student events, a place where people connect to each other, study, social, and enjoy their coffee and meal. The amount of money students spend on coffee, especially during exams period, should not be discounted. A student-run café not only provide good quality coffee with a lower price, fresh food, but also gives students a better community surrounding feelings. The significance of making contributions to coffee industry, organic food industry and students’ health should be realized. There are many student-run cafés successfully running in the education institutions, such as The Nest in McGill University, The Hive café in Concordia University, Jake’s café in Vanier College. Those examples show us how important student cafeteria is in student’s daily life.  There is no doubt that the consumption of coffee and food in the school will not only benefit the students themselves, but also the school community.






  1. Statista Inc., “Number of Starbucks stores in Canada from 2005 to 2016”, (2016)
  2. Hollie Shaw , “Tim Hortons open 500 new stores in Canada, 300 in U.S.”, (February 25, 2014)
  3. Coffee association of Canada, “Coffee facts”, ( March, 2015)
  4. Santropol/Copardes Canada Inc, “Small producers’ symbol”,

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