Although promotional discounts were offered for the first time by canteen vendors as part of the NUS Students’ Union’s (NUSSU) effort to encourage students to vote in this year’s “Best Canteen Competition”, many students admitted to being unaware about them.
The low visibility of the discount promotions at canteen stalls could have affected students’ awareness of the competition.
Lim Weng Chiat, a first-year industrial and systems engineering student, said, “When I visited the stalls, there were no obvious signs being put up about the offers. I only knew about the promotion when I asked the uncle about it. That’s when he told me the competition is going on.”
“Not many of my friends are aware of the promotions, much less the competition,” Lim added.
Atticus Foo, a final-year communications and new media major, said that some students knew about the discounts but not what they were for.
“The promotions were written on small, white pieces of paper and stuck on the stall. I thought the Yong Tau Foo stall (at the Arts and Social Sciences canteen) was trying to clear stock from the Chinese New Year break,” Foo said.
In a non-scientific poll of 20 students conducted by the Observer, 14 said they were unaware of the promotion. Only three of the six students who were aware of the promotion knew the discounts were for the competition, which was part of NUSSU Welfare’s Food Festival.
Fu Liting, co-project director of the event, said the new initiative of “offer-week” was to encourage stallholders to keep their food standards consistent for a week. In previous years, judging by selected students and professors took place on a chosen day.
Fu added, “Another purpose of the offer also is to induce more students to try new food from other stalls, so that more of them will go online and vote for the best stall.”
For students such as Kelvin Ong however, the discounts were not attractive enough.
“Most of the discounts are so small, they aren’t really significant in affecting my decision to patronize the stall or not,” said business freshman Ong.
“I saw the fliers and email about this event, so I know there’s a promotion going on. Otherwise, I would not have noticed it,” added Ong. “All the canteen stalls look the same to me, because they had no posters about the promotion on the stall at all.”
Fu said that to generate awareness about the competition among stallholders and students alike, a Facebook group was set up one week prior to the start of the promotion, and posters and email blasts were used one week into the competition.
However, these publicity methods did not appear to meet their goal.
Brandon Tan, a third-year communications and new media student, said, “I spoke to a stall auntie about the promotion. She sounded like she had no control over her fate.”
“In an exasperated tone, she said that NUSSU said the stalls must have a promotion. They had no choice.”
Fu said that NUSSU had tried to increase awareness about the competition with promotional posters on stall discounts one week after the offer started, but they were “delayed,” as there was a lapse in communication with the Office of Estate and Development (OED).
An OED representative from the retail and dining services division, who asked not to be named, said OED had approved the posters. She said OED employees did their best to expedite the process, as the posters were sent in the same day they were supposed to be put up at the stalls.
Although awareness amongst students appeared to be low this year, Chua Sui Tee, representative of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) canteen, said the canteen vendors remained supportive of the project, as it promotes healthy competition,
“There’s no reason to not be supportive. After all, it’s a good effort by NUSSU to help promote the drinks and food in the school canteens,” Chua said.
Promotions were offered in canteens in the FASS, Faculty of Science, and Yusof Ishak House from Feb. 22 to Feb. 26, while the canteens at the business, engineering and law faculties had offers from Mar. 1 to Mar. 5.