As part of our Curious Cornhuskers initiative, an anonymous reader asked The Daily Nebraskan, “Can you select a ‘basket of goods’ of basic products needed for a daily/weekly life and compare C-Store prices to Lincoln’s average?”
Data from Rebecca Wood, the manager of Retail Food Operations for University Dining Services, indicated that the 20 most commonly bought items from C-Stores were all beverages or food products. The Daily Nebraskan compared the prices of some of those items to prices found at Walmart and Canopy Street Market.
Direct comparisons between C-Stores and local grocery and convenience stores are not completely accurate, as many of the local stores do not sell products that are in high demand at the C-Stores. For example, according to the data from Wood, a slice of Valentino’s pizza was the best selling product at C-Stores, though this product could not be found at Walmart or Canopy Street Market.
C-Stores, Canopy Street Market and Walmart all sell bottled water, pints of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream, bottled Starbucks Frappuccinos and half gallons of 2% milk.
Twenty-ounce bottles of Aquafina water sell at $1.69 in C-Stores, $1.99 at Canopy Street Market and $1.68 at Walmart.
Pints of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream sell for $7.39 in C-Stores, $5.49 at Canopy Street Market and $4.47 at Walmart.
Bottled Starbucks Frappuccinos are sold in caramel and mocha flavors at $2.93 and $2.91, respectively, in C-Stores. Canopy Street Market sells both flavors at $2.59, and Walmart also sells both flavors for $2.50.
A half gallon of 2% milk is $2.68 in C-Stores, $1.85 at Canopy Street Market and $1.84 at Walmart.
California sushi rolls are also popular at C-Stores, selling at $6.19, a product which is cheaper at Walmart for $4.98 and is not sold at Canopy Street Market.
Director of Dining Services David Annis said prices at Walmart and other convenience stores will be cheaper because of the wide variety of products those stores are able to sell.
“We have a much smaller volume than a Walmart; we can’t even buy the food a lot of the time for what Walmart is selling it for,” he said. “In fact, sometimes we will go to Walmart and buy things to put it on the shelves because that is the cheapest way we can get it.”
He said convenience stores also sell products that have a higher profit margin, such as alcohol, so they are able to mark down food prices.
“Being here on campus, and being that our clientele isn’t old enough for alcohol and things like that, we don’t sell beer. We don’t sell cigarettes,” he said. “We don’t have those sources of revenue to help us offset some of the costs of the food.”
According to Annis, Dining Services still looks at local prices before setting C-Store prices. He said items like soda have a more universal pricing and are more likely to be equal or less at C-Stores than at convenience stores.
C-Stores do not sell some products because the items’ cost would be higher than local stores. Annis used a box of Cheerios as an example.
“When we buy from our vendors, say we buy a box of Cheerios. We buy that box of Cheerios, and it costs us $3.25. I can go to Walmart and buy that same box of Cheerios for $2.69, so right from the beginning I’m paying more [to the vendor],” Annis said. “Then I have to add my markup to it. We end up selling it for $5.50.”
C-Stores serve as convenience stores, providing grab-and-go food for students who do not have time between classes to go into the dining centers, Annis said.
According to Annis, there will be six C-Stores for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln once the new store on East Campus is opened. Other C-Stores can be found in Abel Hall, Selleck Quadrangle, The Village, Knoll Residential Center and the Cather Dining Complex.
Annis said the first ever student satisfaction survey will be conducted during the first week of November through the National Association of College and University Food Services. This survey will allow students to express their opinions on University Dining Services overall and allow UNL to compare the results of the survey with other colleges and universities around the United States.
“Convenience stores on every college campus I have ever been on are one of those things that students have a love-hate relationship with,” he said. “They love them for the convenience. They hate them because of the pricing. We sort of love them for the convenience and hate them for the pricing, too.”