First impression of caterer Eurest: users are satisfied, but prices and banqueting could be improved

First impression of caterer Eurest: users are satisfied, but prices and banqueting could be improved

Elpoyee shortage also affects catering businesses

04-07-2022

MAASTRICHT. Caterer Eurest did not have the easiest of starts at Maastricht University. Their contract started while the whole of the Netherlands was in lockdown and the university was almost completely closed. Since then, students and employees have been able to make normal use of their services for some months now. How is that going?

He has just received the results of the latest Flycatcher survey, says René Kersten from Eurest. “In general, people are satisfied. We see the same thing in our continuous guest surveys that people can complete by scanning a QR code when they are in our restaurants or shops.” Two things that continue to pop up in these surveys, also when Albron was still the caterer, are prices and the vegetarian/vegan selection. Prices are a tough one, says contract manager Mark Anneveldt as well. “Raw material prices continue to rise; just like groceries will not become cheaper in the coming time, neither will the caterer prices go down.” “We regularly compare our prices to those of companies on and around the university campus. They are about the same, but sometimes people expect the university prices to be lower”, adds Kersten. Eurest continues to expand the selection of vegetable products, says Kersten. “But of course, it is always possible to add more. That’s why we facilitated a few student study projects in the past months to look at how we can improve further.”

Postponed plans

Kersten also hopes that the caterer can soon meet a number of the agreements from the contract that were set aside because of Covid. “For example, we want to organise an Idea-competition in which students can submit ideas in terms of sustainability, the assortment, product quality and service. The best ideas will be awarded with a voucher from Ikea, hence the name of the competition: Idea. But to do this, students will have to be on campus and be familiar with our present selection.”

Another plan concerns food and drinks that have to be discarded. “We want to start weighing and labelling our waste. That way we get information that we can use to adapt our company processes. The idea is that we work smarter and produce less waste. If you know that you often throw away tomato soup, you could make less tomato soup. If too many products are past their consumption date, you can change buying policies. Except, it is quite an investment – we want to fit out our waste bins with tablets and cameras – but that is only worth doing if we have a normal turnover, otherwise you don’t get a true picture.”

Employee shortage

Then there is the employee shortage. Just like many other catering businesses, Eurest also has a problem in this area. “In the university restaurants and shops, it is going reasonably well,” says Kersten. “But if someone is sick or has a day off, we have a problem filling that spot. We use job agencies, but they also have trouble finding people. All restaurants are fishing in the same pond.”

There is a bigger problem in the case of catering for meetings, drinks and other events, the so-called banqueting. “That is not yet what it should be,” says Anneveldt. “Before Covid – when Albron was still our caterer – they had eight people working for them,” Kersten explains. “During the lockdowns, temporary contracts were not renewed, as a result of which we ended up having only four employees left. Regular orders are usually not too much of a problem, but there are also a lot of special events. We received more applications than ever for those, probably because many events were postponed due to Covid and are now being held after all. Fortunately, we have been able to hire two new colleagues.”

Only apples

Another complaint is the selection for banqueting. Apparently, it is too limited. For example, instead of a bowl of mixed fruit, some got only different kind of apples. The ordering process has changed, says Kersten. “We work with the no waste principle, which means that we match orders to the changing offer in the restaurants. Previously, you ordered the rolls you wanted. Now, you can only choose between ordinary, vegetarian or vegan rolls. Exactly what you get on it, depends on what the restaurant has on offer that day. That way, we prevent food wastage. The UM was very enthusiastic about this during the tendering process, but for the person ordering it is taking some getting used to. By the way, I think it is justified criticism that you don’t just get apples when you order mixed fruit. If, when putting together the basket, one mainly takes apples from the restaurant, because there are usually many of them, I see that as laziness. That needs to be improved.”

Author: Cleo Freriks

Photo: Daria Shevtsova via Pexels

Tags: ctaering,eurest,albron,cater,vegetarian,vegan,price,expensive,labour market,shortage,employee shortage,banqueting

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