By Tamar Bot
— Last November, the first supermarket was added to the Science Park campus. Spar City Science Park, located right across the Academic Building, was immediately deemed the rival of AUC’s own cafeteria that has a far smaller range of products for sale. However, the cafeteria is holding its own, according to catering manager Anja Hoorenman.
A quick glance into the cafeteria at lunchtime is enough to see that there’s still dozens of students in line. “It’s still as busy as before,” Hoorenman said. According to her, the cafeteria staff did notice a slight decrease in their customers when Spar just opened. “That was because of all of the special offers,” she said. For example, in November and December Spar was selling 3 croissants for just €1.
This offer was particularly successful, according to Justin Kroon, department manager at Spar City Science Park. “We sold about 7000 croissants”, he said. In January, the special offers stopped and Spar started offering day-specific deals. Now, students can only buy 3 croissants for €1 on Wednesdays. Since then, things returned to normal for the cafeteria, according to Hoorenman. “Students just came back for convenience’s sake,” she said.
However, Spar is also busy during lunchtime. According to Kroon, there are significantly less customers for lunch on Wednesdays, when the majority of AUC students don’t have class. “But they also just come and do groceries,” he said. This, of course, is hard for the cafeteria staff to compete with. According to Hoorenman, they don’t even want to. “We’re too different to be considered rivals,” she said.
This seems to be reflected in students’ shopping habits. Rather than making a choice between one or the other, most students visit both the cafeteria and Spar. Second-year student Sascha Vonk is one of those students. “I buy things at the cafeteria out of convenience, but go to Spar during long breaks or for groceries,” she said.
Second-year student Stephanie Reussner sometimes buys coffee in the cafeteria, but visits Spar more often. “They just have a lot more choice, and it’s cheaper as well,” she said.
This, unfortunately, is something the cafeteria cannot do much about. They are tied to rules set up by AUC that literally disable them to offer the large variety of products that Spar is provides. The idea that Spar would be cheaper is not completely true either, according to Hoorenman. In her experience, students don’t really take time to look at the cafeteria’s price list properly and therefore fail to see that the cafeteria really does have low-priced products. Instead of filling their own sandwiches or buying soup, which is relatively cheap, students just grab the luxurious baguettes, and then complain they’re too expensive, according to Hoorenman. “It might be true that some products are a little bit cheaper at Spar, but students are also just lazy,” she said.
They might be lazy, but they’re also critical. Students regularly come up to Hoorenman or other cafeteria staff to tell them what they want. If the criticism is constructive, the staff is open to suggestions and willing to consider students’ proposals. Even though the cafeteria is constantly looking to improve, this is not meant as an explicit reaction to the opening of Spar. Even the slightest sense of competition from the beginning seems to have left the grounds of Science Park. “We just have different things to offer,” Hoorenman concludes.