‘Staff can do it themselves’

Vegan sandwiches, an app where you can order your lunch and chefs on site: that is how the cafeteria staff believes food services can be saved.
By Peter Keizer / Translation by Traci White

The RUG wants to outsource the restaurants and canteens to a commercial third party in because it cost hundreds of thousands of euros to keep the facilities up and running. That means that the employees in question would lose their job at the university while simultaneously becoming employees of the new provider. But there is another way, according to the chefs, managers and service staff in their rescue plan.

Outsourcing is totally unnecessary, the employees write in their report, titled ‘Eating with Groninger practicality’, which will be discussed in the University Council this week. ‘It is possible to bring about improvements and innovation with our existing organisation, and to do so without the great expense of a European procurement or any reorganisation.’

The restaurant employees believe that doing so would require quite a few changes. The menu should be adapted to better meet the needs of (international) students and staff, more investments should be made in the staff, the work load must be reduced and better management is needed.

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Bami soup

The changes should begin with the menu itself. Various pilots which the employees themselves have carried out revealed that there is growing demand for vegan sandwiches, bami soup and fruit cups. One list of seven new products would yield more than 1,000 euros in revenue per month.

Furthermore, the employees believe that an app could encourage people to visit the canteens more often. ‘Via the website or app, you can easily place a lunch order and pay for it. All you have to do is pick it up or, for a small price, you can even have it delivered to your desk.’

The personnel also feel that they could win over more people by having themed weeks, for example by featuring Chinese or Italian cuisine, or focusing on cakes and other desserts. Another idea is to periodically invite famous chefs to work in the kitchens at the Academy building of the Kapetynborg for a day. Improving the variety of warm meals should also increase revenues. In total, the staff believes that they can generate an additional 500,000 euros a years by implementing these new ideas.

Work floor

But the look of the restaurants also has to change, the employees feel, and more attention should be paid to sustainability and collaborating with local entrepreneurs.

On the work floor, certain changes would also be welcome. The staff say that they are in need of decisive leadership from management that supports them, and the work load – which, according to the union FNV, is four times higher than the national average – has to be decreased. That would be made possible by investing in better training for the employees.

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Investment

The staff estimates that the entire plan would require an investment of 128,000 euros, which they say is far less expensive than the costs of procurement and reorganisation.

‘With this plan, we want to prove that we are capable of handling this ourselves’, says one of the staff members who asks to remain anonymous. ‘We hope that the Board of Directors will seriously consider our proposal and that we can remain university employees.’

‘Feasible’

The Employee Council of the University Services Department, under which the university restaurants are classified, has already been convinced. They describe the plan as ‘feasible and achievable’ and want the proposed measures to be taken into consideration before taking any steps toward beginning a reorganisation. The University Council factions will follow their recommendations.

‘We will take a serious look at the plans’, says department head Tom de Witt Hamer. ‘I expect that we will revisit this in September or October. Until then, no decisions will be made.’

Read the restaurant employee’s plan here.

Nederlands

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