Science - January 26, 2012

‘Quality of catering must improve'

Keeping the customer satisfied: this is the main task for whichever caterer takes over the running of Wageningen UR canteens from the next academic year. In exchange for satisfied students and staff, Wageningen UR will slash the rent.

The best-seller: soup (55%)
The contract with the current caterer, Albron, runs up until July 2012. Students and staff give the catering a rating of 5.4 out of 10, against a national average of 6.1 for university canteens. Nor have staff and students held back over the past year in giving voice to their dissatisfaction with the canteens, especially in the Leeuwenborch. There, they held ‘Eat-ins' to show the kinds of meals they want: hot, international and sustainable. The new tender provides an opportunity to go for this. Together with student and staff representatives, Facilities and Services have now drawn up a vision of the future of the Wageningen UR canteens. There is a big emphasis on sustainable, healthy and accessible catering that is good value for money and meets the customers' wishes.
Rent-free
Currently Albron leases the space they use, and the costs are high in proportion to the turnover. Of the students, 60 percent bring their own lunch, and customers spend an average of 2.11 euros at the canteen. This leaves Albron very little leeway for catering flexibly to the student population's diverse needs. In response to this, Wageningen UR is dropping the rent for all the canteens in Wageningen, Leeuwarden and Velp. With the proviso that the caterer should be enterprising and keep its customers satisfied (with a minimal score of 6.1). Otherwise, the caterer will be fined.
The future of the hot meals introduced last year is up in the air: the caterers in the Forum and the Leeuwenborch will be free to decide for themselves whether they provide hot meals. Such a service would have to be cost-covering. A low-cost basic range of foods will be retained and will include soup, bread and spreads, fruit and milk or buttermilk. This is only in doubt at VHL Leeuwarden, where students prefer more deluxe bread rolls or a cheap snack.
Chinese
The tender covers the Forum, small outlets on the campus, and all the sites outside Wageningen, including VHL, the LEI, Lelystad and Imares. Only the Leeuwenborch is to have its own local caterer. When the new building Orion is ready next year, providers will be sought for a student café and a large lunch facility. In the run-up to this, Facilities and Services have looked into whether several local businesses would like to run outlets on campus. There was little interest in this in Wageningen, however: the clientele is too small and spend too little. The exception is the Chinese restaurateur who serves food in the Forum and is interested in collaborating with the main caterer.
 
Students
There are 7,600 students in Wageningen, 3,200 in Leeuwarden and 1,400 in Velp. Their spending patterns vary with the time of the month.
60% bring lunch from home
2% patronize the canteen daily
> 50% patronize the canteen less than once a week25% sometimes buy something to supplement their lunch
6% sometimes buy a hot lunch
The top four best-selling products among students are:
1. Soup (50%)
2. Slices of bread (35%)
3. Freshly filled rolls (35%)
4. Hot snacks (32%)
Staff
At the LEI, PPO and VHL, 50% patronize the canteen on a daily basis.
In Wageningen (Head Office, Leeuwenborch, Zodiac, Gaia/Lumen), 10-42% use the canteen daily
51% sometimes buy something to supplement their lunch
15% sometimes buy a hot lunch
To top four best-selling products:
1. Soup (64%)
2. Milk-based drinks (47%)
3. Freshly filled rolls (27%)
4. Hot snacks (26%)

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