The future of Dining Hall
by Robert van Schaik
Word has spread major changes in Dining Hall will happen next semester. No more Eurest? Ans, Kees-Jan and Peter losing their jobs? The Boomerang interviewed Dining Hall Advisory Group (DHAG) member Juliet den Oudendammer.
Q: Rumor has it the current contract with Eurest won’t be extended. Is that true?
The contract Eurest had with College Hall ends this semester. It will not be extended due to university-wide changes regarding student catering policies. The decision was made by the UU administration. Next semester, there is going to be a university-wide caterer.
Q: Is our Dining Hall going to be like any other university restaurant?
Not necessarily. It only means a caterer has to be found that will be able to fulfill the needs for all members of Utrecht University, including UCU.
Q: Which catering business is going to serve us food next year?
This hasn’t been decided yet. Three main Dutch caterers are competing for the position. The DHAG and College Hall will have an opportunity to talk to the caterers. One of the big successes the DHAG booked is that the Auditing Team, together with College Hall, will evaluate the new caterer every semester. This way, we can talk to the caterer directly and discuss the wishes and concerns of the student body.
Q:What are the major changes we have to expect next year?
Every student will purchase a pre-paid card with a value of 750 Euros at the beginning of a semester. The UU has estimated that this amount of money will be enough to get a student through one warm meal per day. If you don’t use all the money on your pre-paid card by the end of one academic year, the money will be lost. This system was created to make sure that the caterer has a minimum sale volume guaranteed.
Q: Will it be like a pay-less-eat-less system? Or can we still get anything we want in Dining Hall?
The system will be “pay-as-you-go” so you will only pay for what you want to eat. If you’re going over the 750 euros per semester it is your own responsibility to put extra money on your chip-card.
Q: Other than the chip card system, what other things are going to change?
Dining Hall opening hours! We have to say goodbye to breakfast simply because it isn’t profitable for a caterer. In the past, not many students were willing to get out of bed before 9:30am to get their breakfast if they had class at 11am.
Q: But there is still going to be kroketten day, right?
This all depends on the new caterer so we can’t say anything about that either. On some days, warm lunch may even be served. Saturday dinners will be cancelled because too many students leave the campus for the weekends. Warm lunch will be guaranteed on Saturdays to make up for the missing dinner. The Dining Hall will also be open during vacation periods, especially during summer and winter terms.
Q: Why did the UU/UCU administration decide to open up during the breaks now?
One big cafeteria is more affordable than several smaller ones. The UU has decided it will close down the smaller cafeterias in the James Boswell Institute and the School of Economics. This means all UU people flocking to our campus daily will join us during meals. Because their semester and break system is different than ours, they’ll still have to attend meetings even though we have breaks.
Q: Are you sure that DH can handle all those extra people?
Even though this may stoke up our fear of other students raiding our little bubble, it does offer the advantage that Dining Hall can stay open year-round. We feared Dining Hall would become even more crowded during lunch and dinner hours, but the administration has taken this into consideration: four registers will be available.
Q: How flexible will the caterer be to take “special needs” of individuals into account?
That is one of the criteria listed by the administration for the new catering business. People who need special diets, as well as students with allergies or certain religious beliefs will be taken care of. Furthermore, the variety of food will stay the same, so there will also always be at least one vegetarian option available.
Q: What will happen with the current Dining Hall staff?
It all depends on the new caterer whether the current staff will be able to stay. The fact that the current staff members already know campus, the people and the Dining Hall facilities makes it attractive for the new caterer to hire them. But we haven’t reached that stage of negotiation yet; right now we simply don’t know what’s going to happen.