MAASTRICHT. Chris Snellen, responsible for catering on behalf of the Facility Services, had to attend another University Council meeting to explain about in-house caterer Albron.
The last time was in December, when he gave a presentation about the results of the Flycatcher survey on catering services that was carried out in November. Students and employees proved to be more negative than before about the university cafeterias and coffee corners, resulting in an overall grade for Albron that was below standard again. Those (bi-annual) surveys are important: the UM and Albron have contractually agreed that these constitute the basis of a bonus/penalty arrangement. Regardless of this, Albron pays a certain percentage of its annual income as a fee to the UM (less than 10 per cent, says Snellen). If Albron receives a lower grade than 7, then it pays an additional amount to the university. For example, if Albron scores a 6.9 - as is the case now - this will cost them 40 thousand euro: 1 per cent of the annual income of 4 million. So with a 6.8, it would be 80 thousand. On the other hand, if Albron scores a higher grade, it receives a gift in the form of a reduction on the fee. The latter has never happened yet; since Albron has been taking care of the catering (2010-11), the agreed standard has never been reached, despite new ‘concepts’ such as FastForward and the Bakery Cafe.
A permanent point of criticism, mainly from students, concerns product pricing. “That has always been the case, even when the UM still had its own catering service,” Snellen said during his latest appearance before the University Council’s committee, just before the Carnival holiday. But this time, student council member Lisbeth Huber came up with some remarkable examples: “The prices are ridiculous. They are higher than the supermarket. An apple for 75 cent, 2 euro for a biscuit. Even Banditos is cheaper, and they make a fresh sandwich there for 2.50, while Albron produces a smaller one for 2.80.”
Snellen agreed that he would discuss “the price of apples with Albron”, which he has done in the meantime. With success: the price was lowered to 55 cent last week, the same price you pay for a banana, an orange and a mandarin orange. Pears and kiwis remained at 75 cent.
During the committee meeting, Snellen emphasised that the UM has very little say in the pricing level: “The contract states maximum prices for only a few products. A slice of bread, milk, a hot meal, basics. Everything else is determined by Albron.”
He explained that the UM is responsible for housing, energy, cleaning and waste. As well as general maintenance and (re)investments in facilities and appliances.
At the University Council’s request, Snellen will provide them shortly with an overview of Albron’s price developments. He also announced a benchmark comparison with other institutes in the Netherlands.
The contract with Albron runs until November 2018. By that time, the present set-up of the catering services will be reviewed, said Snellen. “Do we still need two large university cafeterias, in Randwijck and the city centre? Or will we change to smaller units? And what will we do at the Tapijn barracks?”