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Step by step VITAM brings canteens closer to ultimate goals

After nearly four months caterer VITAM has not yet fulfilled all its promises. If would be a wonder if it had, says TU/e’s head of Location Management & Operational Services Monique Kuyck, who is used to a new caterer needing a period of about a year to make the necessary progress. With regard to organization, product range and sustainability some adjustment is still ongoing.

The most commonly heard remark about the product range offered by caterer VITAM in the food courts since January is that it is ‘certainly tasty, but really expensive’. Customers are also aware that plenty of plastic is still being used, and they miss the metal cutlery and the trays in Atlas.

Monique Kuyck has observed these same things. The head of Location Management & Operational Services has just eaten soup with a wooden spoon for the first time. Not a satisfactory experience. “And yet this wooden spoon is a reaction to input from our side. At the end of February, we told VITAM that too many plastic beakers, cutlery and plates were being used. It is a requirement we ourselves have laid down that the caterer must work with disposables, but ones that are sustainable. Now that plastic has been rejected, VITAM is trying out wood because that can be disposed of in a sustainable waste stream. It is a biodegradable material for which as yet at TU/e we have no waste stream, but we can set one up.”

The reason why no trays are being used in Atlas is that no dishwashing facility has been installed there, she explains. This is due to the limited amount of space allocated to the food courts.

“Since January we are seeing more and more improvements being introduced, like a wider product range,” says Kuyck. When the license was granted to VITAM, it was agreed that the ambiance would be welcoming, that student satisfaction would be increased, and that the caterer would be future-proof, which includes, for example, being flexible when Gemini undergoes renovation. It was also agreed that health and sustainability would be highly valued.


The prices have been left to the caterer, with the exception of a basic range. “For those on a tighter budget, there is soup at 51 cents, affordable bread and sandwich fillings, and an affordable hot meal,” says Kuyck.

TU/e and VITAM hold a weekly meeting. Organization and product range are matters, alongside sustainability, on which Kuyck wants to have a say. Where, she wonders, is the Happy app promised by VITAM. “That is an app the guests (students, employees and externals, ed.) can use to give feedback. But we've not seen anything yet,” says Kuyck.

“A great deal of work is going on behind the scenes to launch the Happy app. We are nearly ready to launch it and I expect it to go live within a couple of weeks,” responds Mark Hufken, Operational Manager at VITAM, when asked. “We want to start using this app very actively, in order to optimize our guest satisfaction and thus to gear our product range completely to the wishes and needs of our guests, now and in the future.”

More points for improvement

Kuyck is seeing two smoothies, for example, at these food outlets whereas seven were promised. The need for smoothies is much greater in the summer months than at this time of the year,” says Mark Hufken. “So we have decided to first spend time and attention on getting our staff up to speed.”

Janine van Bree works in the Campus Kitchen in Helix. Since VITAM has been her boss, her job has changed significantly. “I really do enjoy it much more now. But there is much more work to do because we prepare much more ourselves. And it is more complicated, because we have to complete the allergens list ourselves. I'd like to see more guests in my restaurant and I'm trying to make the food as tasty as possible.”

The Happy app mentioned above isn't something Van Bree is really missing, instead she talks to her guests. “They tell us that they would rather have luxury soup than super soup (starting at 2.37 euros with the toppings, ed.). The basic soup isn't selling well either, but we are contractually obliged to offer it.”

In de Helix canteen you can see paper salad bowls, metal cutlery, and milk served straight from liter packs. It is poured into plastic beakers, but Van Bree hopes a solution for that will soon be found. Cheese and cooked meats are presented on dishes rather than in individual portion packaging. But it is a pity that Helix’s waste streams are not separated, Van Bree thinks. In the entire building, there's not a Tulip waste bin to be found. “Hopefully that will soon change.”

That's definitely on the way, says Kuyck. “There are still three buildings to go as far as Tulips are concerned. In Gemini, MetaForum (on the upper floors) and Helix separate waste streams will be introduced in the course of 2019.”

Cold and hot water

In the meantime, Join the Pipe has linked up with the mains water system in the Auditorium, Helix and Vertigo. In the Forum and on the Green Strip, the university has been offering these refill stations for some time, places where everyone can tap drinking water free of charge into their own bottle or beaker.

For its part, VITAM has also expressed some wishes. It would like to move the hot meals offered in the Auditorium and Gemini to Atlas, where it would like to open all three food outlets (Harry Couvert, Bakery and Local Legends) in the evenings. When that can happen has not yet been decided.

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