Dinner at the Academy Building
Dutch students are used to cheese sandwiches for lunch and generally eat dinner at home. When 24-year old Psychology student Ritwik Swain wandered the cafeteria looking for a hot meal, he was disappointed to see a meager offer.
‘At universities outside of the Netherlands, it is common to have healthy choices at a low price. Other international students noticed the problem as well. I was running for the University Council and my main focus point was the lack of catering. Dutch students didn’t recognize that, they were saying ‘what catering problem?’
Even though Dutch students don’t see the problem, they do like to eat, which is why the general audience at the cafeteria appears to be Dutch. This could also have something to do with the fact that it is 17:15 on a Wednesday and the Dutch prefer to eat early.
On the menu today are two options for a mere 5,50 euros. Chicken wings with fries and salad and a mushroom pasta. A vegetarian option, very good. The food is a pleasant surprise, a good plate of fresh mushrooms with a not too overzealous cream sauce and some actual fresh herbs. Two female students are enthusiastic about the chicken wings. ‘It was very tasty. The salad contained fresh mint, so it is nice to see that they are working with fresh produce.’
Ritwik Swain is very pleased with the outcome of his efforts. ‘After I got elected, I set up the Food Committee. We got in touch with the hospitality services and they acknowledged our problem. In other countries, there is government funding for meals and the RuG is really lagging behind. The hospitality services took our suggestions on board and hired someone to renovate the cafeteria for a year. Now we see more hot meals at lunch and there are dinners being served.’
Thursday at 17:45 shows that the Academia Restaurant is not a soup kitchen yet. No more than ten people are sitting at the red cozy tables, while the choices are mouthwatering. A beef stew in a decorative little pot for 5,50 euros and a vegetarian paella for only 3,50! True, the paella could also be called yellow rice and veg, but it tastes delicious. The stew is very acceptable as well.
‘Where is everyone?’
An older man clutters it with mustard. ‘A bit of sauce, so I can become nice and fat.’ So the food is great and doesn’t make you see the back of your wallet. On paper, the place should be littered with starved students. So where is everyone? At 18:50 there are about eight people having dinner.
A couple walks in, off to the cheapest date in the history of the world. A bored waiter keeps walking around, waiting for something to do. He acknowledges that this is not an exception. ‘It remains very quiet, probably because we don’t do enough promotion.’
Ritwik Swain can confirm this. The advertising is not only low, it is nonexistent. It is not enough to just put up a sign, a lot more could be done.
‘The chef is a little disappointed. He was pleased to be able to use his creativity and now not many people are showing up. But look on the bright side, without advertising people are still coming, so I believe that when word spreads it will become busier. After all, this is an improvement, and you can’t complain about improvements.’