Student-led Agora Cafe opening second location next term

Student-led Agora Cafe will open a second location next term in one of the previous Fooood locations.

Agora is a vegetarian, student-run cafe located in the basement of the H.R. Macmillan building. Its second location will open in one of two locations previously used by the affordable meal resource Fooood, which UBC did not re-open for the 2022 academic year due to high operational costs

Cody Rector, a master’s of food science student and General Manager with Agora, explained that the motivation to expand came from both Fooood closing and the strength of Agora’s self-sustaining operations model. 

While Agora has received funding from the UBC Food Security Initiative (FSI) and AMS Sustainability Grants for initial purchases, Rector said the cafe does not need continuous grant funding once up and running.

Rector partly attributed Agora’s sustainability to its shift to an entirely volunteer model as a part of a broader restructuring when the cafe reopened after a nearly 2 year closure. 

“[Agora] consistently ran a deficit for a few years …  those wages to the managers have turned into roughly 6000 meals that will be given out [to volunteers and at Agora community dinners] this year. ”

Rector said the second Agora location will not be an exact replica of the current location, but will have the same goal of giving back to the community that supports it.

“[The new location will still be a] restaurant that functions as a social enterprise, that generates profits from operating a restaurant that serves affordable food, and using those profits, provides [for] the community that runs the space,” he said. 

200 student volunteers support the current Agora location, and the team is still seeking 110 volunteers to meet their anticipated opening date for the second.

According to Rector, the new location’s initial costs will be covered by funds from the FSI, and will undergo a pilot period to build up staff and operations with the goal of remaining open for subsequent terms. 

Rector also indicated that UBC leadership is “behind and supportive of the expansion,” with conversations ongoing concerning UBC assuming Agora's building and maitenance costs Agora’s building and maintenance costs.

Rector expressed confidence that a second location would be well recieved.

“To have that same effect [as the current Agora location] doubled, would be objectively a good thing at the university.”

In the context of the ongoing challenges of food security on campus, Rector expressed faith in the second Agora Café location, as well as other food security initiatives at UBC like the Food Market Hub.

“I think that there’s a tremendous amount of work that’s currently happening on campus.”