New UvA Catering Contract Opens Up Possibility for Student-Run AUC Canteen

By Eleonora Boguslavskaia —

The five-year catering contract that UvA and HvA had with Eurest will come to an end on January 1, 2017. UvA Facility Services are working on the development of a new contract that will be put out to tender in mid-April. This document entails a whole new catering concept for most UvA locations and possibly a student-run canteen for AUC.

The initiative of a student-run canteen for AUC comes from Student Council co-chair Stijn Wilbers and second-year AUC student Matilda Medard. They propose a hybrid model, where 95% of control over the canteen is given to students, including the setting of the menu and prices, packaging, opening times and more. The remaining five percent of control, such as health and safety checks, is given to the external catering company.

According to Wilbers, the idea was positively received by UvA and will be reflected in the contract before it goes on the market. “The baselines of what we want, such as menu-setting or price-range, will be in the contract one way or another, and once the partner is found, we can start figuring out the more nitty-gritty details,” he said. The details include many financial and legal questions, concerning whether or not students need to set up a foundation, how they can ensure a graduate transition, and how to maintain working continuity.

Medard appears to be less optimistic about the outcome of the process. She stresses that her initial idea was to have a separate contract for AUC, with a preferably non-profit company as an external partner. But UvA rejected this idea, which means that students will have to partner up with the same company that gets the overall contract across UvA and HvA in mid-June.

According to Medard, there could be many complications in the process of negotiating with this partner, mainly because it will be a profit-oriented company. “I think that having a profit-making company immediately entails that we [students] have less of a say in terms of pricing,” Medard explained.

According to Marcel Hartendorp, member of UvA Facility Services, UvA rejected the idea of a separate contract because they want to remain responsible for the quality, laws and regulations regarding food and drinks within the buildings. “Of course we will seriously look at the possibilities to fulfil the wishes of AUC students within the parameters of the new contracts,” he said.

Right now the main question is what AUC students want their future canteen to be like. A Facebook survey that Wilbers and Medard started, shortly after a brainstorm session that took place at AUC on 25th of February, received 165 answers. Students expressed their preferences in relation to everything from pricing and opening hours to packaging and production.

34% of students responded that pricing is most important for them, while 29.8% are most interested in quality. 22% and 14.2% of students chose health and sustainability respectively as the most important factors.

The charts show that most of the responders tend to go for the cheapest option, except when it comes to soup or hot meals.

The survey also shows that 46.7% of students do not support the idea of a fully vegetarian canteen, although many want to see more vegetarian options.

Wilbers and Medard also looked into possibilities of organising more student-friendly facilities, such as couches, a lounge area around the canteen (70.3% supported that idea) or a microwave/kettle (91.5% supported).

Lastly, many students expressed interest to participate in cooking (29.1% – yes, 38.8% – maybe), doing administrative/managerial work (23.6% – yes, 36.4% – maybe) in the canteen, although most preferred to do it for a wage (55.2%). Participation can also be internship, community project or volunteer work based. “These numbers are very encouraging for us in terms how valuable this project is,” said Wilbers.

Other UvA and HvA locations will also be affected by the introduction of a new contract. Folia, UvA’s student newspaper reports that Facility Services have been working on the development of a new catering concept that will supposedly provide more food variety, following the example of “De Hallen” in Amsterdam West. The plan is to introduce three types of food areas under the slogans of “Chill&Chat” for bigger canteens with hot meals, “Grab&Go” for snack stands and the self-explanatory “Coffee to go”.

The final results will be known once the new caterer is found and the transition will begin after January 1, Folia reports.

 

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