Ahead of the tender procedure to select a new caterer for the University of Twente, a Food Market was organized at the O&O square on 14 September.
This was part of a preliminary effort to gather as many ideas, wishes and needs from the UT community as possible to help define selection criteria for the university’s new catering company. In the weeks since the Food Market, a number of ‘kitchen table sessions’ were held to gather input from staff and students, and a feedback session was organized to present their input to representatives of UT management.
WHAT WAS DISCUSSED?
Various target groups took part in the kitchen table sessions. As well as students and staff, this also included members of UT management, such as the faculty managing directors. During the sessions, participants provided feedback about noteworthy food trends in the current market, like ‘bubble tea,’ and on propositions from previous food and beverage surveys conducted at the university. Their input on these trends and propositions and responses to questions about existing and desired food and beverage facilities provided insight into what each target group needs and wants.
NEEDS AND WISHES
In the sessions it became clear that internationalization is an important factor in the decision on new food and beverage facilities. Primarily, this concerns dietary customs in different cultures. Among students, for example, there is high demand for hot meals at lunchtime. Other explicit wishes are the availability of fast food products, a varied product range and freshly prepared soups and salads. UT employees in particular would like to see more vegetarian options.
Another point raised during the sessions is the importance of locally-sourced, sustainable and healthy items. This led to an idea to assign sustainability scores to specific menu options to make it instantly clear how sustainable a product or dish is. What also became evident during the sessions, however, is that this scope may not be available within the terms of a prospective caterer’s service contract or business case, especially since students and staff both stressed that they are against price rises. Furthermore, the logistical side of catering, such as the number of staffed and unmanned issues, opening hours, et cetera, is discussed.
The tender procedure will have to look closely at the extent to which different parties can or cannot meet the needs and wishes expressed by the UT community.
In the run-up to the kitchen table sessions, the University of Twente developed a vision for university food and beverage services together with food and hospitality consultancy firm HTC Advies. The concept identified as having the best potential was ‘Surprising and Distinctive.’ Instead of more or less the same offering at all locations, this concept entails greater diversity and variation in options. This could take the form of more single product outlets, such as an Asian wok counter and a bagel shop, for example. The overall response to this proposal from students, staff and management during the sessions was very positive. They also contributed a wide range of ideas, from American fare (spare ribs and hot dogs) to vegetarian dishes and homemade soups and salads. To sum up, the current vision on catering enjoys broad support and participants are very positive about the proposal to diversify by location. Naturally this input will be shared with parties taking part in the tender. Ultimately, it will be up to the company that is selected to flesh out the new concepts.
SUCCESSES AND CHALLENGES
All in all, this preparatory phase was very successful, yielding valuable input for the catering company chosen to supply food and beverage services at the University of Twente. As well as some great opportunities, they will also face a number of challenges. One challenge discussed in the session with management is that it will not always be possible to reconcile all of the target groups’ various wishes. For example, the desire for dishes prepared fresh to order and the need for fast service, or the imperative of sustainability relative to that of low prices. To ensure that all input from each and every target group is taken on board, the university will organize a brainstorming session on the new concepts either with the company that ultimately wins the contract, or possibly earlier, as part of the tender procedure itself. The request for tenders is scheduled to be issued before the end of this year.
All of the sessions were organized by HTC Advies, which will continue to be involved throughout the tender procedure. If you have any questions or comments about the tender, please feel free to get in touch with Mieke Verduijn on 06-1000-9553 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Official contact: Bertyl Lankhaar, spokesperson for the Executive Board, M: 06 20027435