Organisation - May 24, 2012

Is Cormet food tastier?

From mid-July, Cormet will succeed Albron as the Wageningen UR caterer. The question is of course, will we be better off? Is a Cormet lunch tastier? Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating of course. Resource put the caterers to the test.

Perhaps this story should start with a disclaimer. We are not talking about an objective scientific test here. The adopted method is dubious, the tasting panel is totally subjective and the test is very small-scale. But there is no accounting for taste. So off to lunch went students Eva van Cleef (Biology) and Derek Deli Pan (Environmental Science), accompanied by Resource editor Linda van der Nat. On Tuesday they lunched at the Arnhem-Nijmegen University of Applied Sciences, where Cormet is the caterer, and the next day they headed for the Forum for an Albron lunch.
The system was simple. Between them, the panel members evaluated a basic lunch, a standard lunch and a deluxe lunch at both venues. The HAN was chosen because Cormet said the menu there was closest to what we can expect next year in Wageningen.
So should we be jumping for joy? In tasting tests by staff and students during the tender process, Cormet clearly came out top. The Resource tasting panel is not as categorical about its lead over Albron. It rather depends what you are looking for. ‘Taste-wise, the differences are not very big', says Van der Nat. ‘If you want salad, Albron is much better. But if you want a cheap lunch of soup and a bread roll, Cormet scores higher.' The soup could well be the decisive factor, says the panel. For 40 cents, Cormet serves a simple but tasty soup. Albron cannot compete with that. In fact, for Deli Pan, ‘That soup is a good excuse for kicking Albron out'.
Prices are very important, says Cormet co-director Frank van Zomeren. ‘Most caterers offer a cheap basic package and the rest is expensive. There is a huge gap between the two extremes, where we have what we call ‘middle way products'.
The latest survey results show that Albron generally receives a grade of 5.1 (out of 10) from customers. Wageningen UR expects Cormet to achieve at least a 6.1. That may not sound much, but it is not bad, says Van Zomeren. ‘The national average score at universities is 6.2. University students are a very critical target group. Much more critical than applied sciences students.' Besides price and choice, Cormet aims to score well on sustainability. But they are not doing well on sustainability at the HAN, where almost everything on offer is pre-wrapped. That is going to be different in Wageningen, Van Zomeren assures us. ‘Universities, especially Wageningen, are much more sustainability-minded. That is why we are so happy about Wageningen. For us it is a great project to become the most sustainable caterer in the Netherlands.'
‘A funny looking pink ball'

Basic Cormet lunch
Item                          price  grade
Basic soup (mushroom) 0.40 8
Brown ham roll             0.75 5
Beef salad                   1.25 6
Total                           2.40 6.5

Basic Albron lunch
Item                                 price grade
Basic soup (mustard/ bacon) 0.83 4
Brown ham roll                    1.09 6
Russian salad                      1.08 6.5
Total                                 3.00 5,5

Cormet wins on the strength of their soup, says Linda. ‘Nice and creamy, not too salty and with big chunks of mushroom in it. Surprisingly tasty for a basic soup'. Albron's basic soup cannot compete with this. ‘It smells of cornflour with a hint of mustard. Very tasteless. Amazing that it is twice the price of Cormet's soup.' On the other hand, the Cormet salad is nothing to write home about. ‘It doesn't look attractive. With a limp, pink egg. A funny looking pink ball.' The bread rolls served by both caterers are mediocre. ‘A sticky roll', is Linda's verdict on the Cormet one. And the ham is discoloured around the edges. ‘Brrr. And it was still in the packet.' Albron does not score much better though. ‘It tastes almost identical, but you pay nearly 40 cents more for it at Albron.'
 
‘I was so looking forward to that kiwi'

Standard Cormet lunch
Item                          price grade
Gourmet soup (clear beef) 0.80 6
Salmon Wrap                2.50 6.5
Meatball                      1.80 6
Kiwi                            0.50 3
Total                           5.60 7

Standard Albron lunch
Item                                                        price grade
Gourmet soup (cream of tomato with extra veg) 1.54 6
Tuna sandwich                                            1.50 6
Minced meat sausage                                   1.53 6.5
Kiwi                                                         0.59 7.5
Total                                                        5.16 7

The Cormet meatball looks good, says Eva, ‘but when you bite on it, it goes pffff. Practically fluid. I wouldn't have that again.' But the wrap is good. ‘It looks good, it has plenty of taste and it is well filled. Nice and fresh too. I'm not always so keen on that creamy stuff they put in it. It's probably to compensate for the small quantity of salmon in it.' But the Cormet kiwi is the biggest let-down. ‘Soft and tasteless. Just like agar. I was so looking forward to that kiwi. I ask you, what can go wrong with a kiwi?' Albron's kiwi fares better. ‘I get the impression that Albron's ingredients are fresher', says Eva. ‘The food looks fresher. But maybe it's because you can put your meal together yourself more with the Albron food. The Cormet food all comes readymade.'
‘Below the surface there is nothing but lettuce'

Deluxe Cormet lunch
Item                                         price grade
Large baguette (omelette and bacon) 3.75 6
Salad shaker with dressing             2.50 5
Fruit salad                                  1.95 7
Brownie                                     1.50 8
Total                                         9.70 7

Deluxe lunch Albron
Item                                                price grade
Turkish bread with egg, bacon and tomato 3.50 6
Salad                                               1.64 8,5
Fresh fruit juice (kiwi/orange)               1.55 6
Muffin                                              1.43 8
Total                                                8.12 7.5|

A photo finish, this one. Albron wins by a hair's breadth, thanks to its average and its salad, says Derek. His Cormet lunched is ruined by the salad. ‘Seen from above it looks good but below the surface there is nothing but lettuce. And Albron has much more choice of salads. You can choose from eight different bowls and you can serve yourself. Besides, it is a whole euro cheaper.´ On the other hand, Cormet's brownies and fruit salad are OK. In fact, the brownies save the day for the Cormet lunch, the whole panel agrees. ´But the bread is too dry and hard for my tastes´, says Derek. ´I need a cup of soup to wash it down. Overall, the Cormet lunch looks good though. But as a student I wouldn´t spend ten euros on it. Perhaps a professor would.´

Re:act