“The great thing about the new contract is its flexibility”, says Vitam’s Mark Hufken. “The previous agreement contained commitments that precluded us from changing everything we wanted to change. Certain products had to stay in rotation, for instance, and the agreement was for a minimum of five years. A lot can change in that time, and now we are able to move with the times.”

Trends and Generation Z

Hufken uses the way eating meat is viewed as one example of how things can change. “The students of today, who generally belong to Generation Z, take it amiss if there are no or only a few vegetarian options. That’s a big difference compared to the way things were ten years ago.”

The meeting service lunches have been vegetarian by default since the summer of 2018. If staff prefer to get a vegan lunch or a lunch with meat, they have to request it beforehand. According to Hufken, most of the faculties use that default vegetarian option.

School Breakfast and School Lunch at Washington-Lee High School Arlington, Virginia Fresh vegetable cups

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Vegetarian lunches become the norm

From now on, vegetarian will be the default option for faculty orders.

If someone orders ‘bitterballen’ for after a meeting, they’ll notice that bitterballen containing meat are still a standard order. “And it will remain that way. We don’t want to come across as patronising. There is a meatless option, however: the ‘bietenbal’ (beet ball).”

Hufken recognises a trend where people want to enjoy tasty food, and don’t particularly favour meals that contain meat or fish. “We have a role to play in showing people that vegetarian or vegan meals can be just as tasty as the other kind.”

Cosier, more sustainable and tastier

The cafeterias in the Tinbergen and Mandeville Buildings are getting a makeover that will achieve a new ‘look and feel’. Things need to be greener, cosier and more atmospherically lit.

Sustainability measures are still being discussed. More vegan meals and biodegradable materials have already been scheduled. “We want to make sure that our products use minimal packaging materials, but we are still discussing what the best solution might be.

Disposable plates, cutlery, encouraging people to bring their own cups? The findings regarding optimal solutions in this area quite often contradict one another.”

Wherever possible, Vitam wants to buy locally and offer products that are in season. “We won’t be serving strawberries this winter, for example. Something exotic like that may happen occasionally, but it needs to become an exception to the rule.”

And not only the meals are getting a makeover: coffee is next. “Staffed coffee corners are also going to be converted. Afterwards, only coffee that has seen the inside of a piston will be available. That way, the coffee is going to get a lot better.”

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Only satisfied when the students are

“We are only going to be satisfied if the students and staff are”, says Hufken. He is looking for an overall customer satisfaction rating of at least 7.5. “That’s quite ambitious.” In order to improve customer satisfaction, Vitam plans to cooperate with a so-called customer satisfaction platform; an app that allows them to pose certain questions to people.

“We will be asking them about the service, quality, pricing, opening hours and the selection on offer. Anyone who regularly completes a survey will be rewarded with a cup of coffee or a sandwich, for instance.

The new agreement was signed this summer, but Vitam expects that it will take six to twelve months for all changes to be implemented.