University of Leicester Students’ Union leading the way with puppies, pearls and pasties

Posted by ap507 at Oct 02, 2015 11:05 AM |
New ‘unique’ food market renovation and Guide Dog initiative introduced at Leicester

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 2 October 2015

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The University of Leicester Students’ Union has invested £200,000 in creating a ‘unique’ dining experience in time for Freshers’ Week as well as welcoming a cute furry member to its team.

The newly refurbished Union St. Food Market in the Students’ Union building was re-opened the same week as the University unveiled its refreshed logo and website, as part of its new Strategic Plan.

Weekly pop-up food stalls selling world cuisine, a bagel bar, 1950s pick-up truck-come-salad-bar, deli counter and Cornish pasty parlour are just some of the tantalising treats on offer to students to help them refuel.

A wall made up of vintage and modern music amps, dubbed Buskers’ Corner, gives students the chance to sing for their supper, quite literally, as those who book to play a slot between midday and 2pm are entitled to a free lunch.

Forget alcohol, the latest trend in beverages, Bubble Tea is also on the menu at Pearls outlet. The brightly coloured drink – which hails from 1980’s Taiwan – has been taking the UK by storm over the past few years and consists of tea, milk and chewy tapioca pearls.

Jason Snowdon, the Students’ Union’s Chief Commercial Officer who masterminded the renovation said: “Today’s students have a much higher expectation of the services and social spaces that support them during their time at university. The food offer for example needs to be on-trend and aspirational and fit within the ‘grazing’ culture that is so common place today.

“The large rise in street food is testament to this change in dining style and was very much my inspiration when creating the Union’s new food market. By bringing together a street food environment, which includes a pop-up station for local restauranteurs, with a ‘Benugo’ style grab and go, iconic design features, market-style seating and busker entertainment we can now offer our students a social space that is engaging and edgy.

“We have had fantastic feedback so far on the new food market from students and our first pop-up partner, Peking restaurant in Leicester, who is greatly enjoying being part of the university experience. Bringing local food businesses into the university is a key commercial goal of mine and the food market has allowed me the opportunity to kick start this initiative. I have no doubt that what we are doing at Leicester will be a catalyst for change in many other universities and student unions in the UK over the coming years, as the traditional cookie-cutter approach no longer fits within the current commercial landscape.”

As well as revolutionising the dining experience, the Students’ Union has been busy over the summer welcoming the newest member to its team, Vinnie the black Labrador retriever.

Off the back of a successful stress relief campaign for students earlier this year, which saw a petting zoo and inflatable assault course arrive at the University, the arrival of Guide Dog puppies on campus had more of an impact on Union staff than predicted.

As part of the Guide Dogs 'work placement initiative', a six-week-old puppy is given to a ‘puppy walker’ (or puppy parent) to train to be socially well behaved and confident.

Vinnie, who has been with the team since mid-June, has a staff profile on the Union’s website and even has his own dedicated blog.

Once introduced to new environments, such as supermarkets, public transport and town conditions, the puppy remains with its puppy walker until around one year old, at which point they are transferred to a training centre to begin their specialised training.

Georgie Tansell, Sales Marketing & Events Manager at the University’s Students’ Union, and puppy parent to Vinnie, said: “The great thing about our situation is that Vinnie can come to work with me at the Students' Union every day and get used to a work environment. For some individuals who require a guide dog this is essential. Vinnie will learn to be calm, relaxed and appropriately responsive in a working environment.

“People often ask me how I could give him away in a year or so. I know that it will be tough, I have no doubt about that - I will be an emotional wreck.

“But I just remind myself why we're doing this... every hour another person goes blind. There are currently 180,000 blind or partially sighted people living in the UK who rarely leave home alone. Vinnie will give someone their independence and freedom. I think of Vinnie as a doggy hero. I often get the feeling he knows he's a super dog, he's so intelligent and well behaved!”

Along with the new food market, which opened last week to coincide with International Freshers’ Week, is a refurbished Starbucks, Common Room ‘Beach Hut’ installation and a rebranded Union Point stationery store, reception area and box office.


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Marketing, Sales & Events Manager, Georgie Tansell at:

About Guide Dogs Puppy walkers:

Vinnie’s Blog:

About the University’s Strategic Plan:

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