Three more canteens closed: who are the people who worked there for years?

The canteen employees at the Administration Building. Photo: Jasper Akkermans

Following the closure of three UU restaurants just before the end of last year, this week sees the final goodbye to yet three more canteens: the one for the Science Faculty in the Minnaert building, the one for Veterinary Medicine in the Androclus building, and the one in the Administration building. All in all, the number of canteens-with-employees will be reduced from nineteen to twelve, the UU announced in October. The locations that are closing, aren’t turning profits. The contract with Sodexo ends in July, 2020, and the university board hopes that these measures will help draw more interested parties to sign up for the tender.

It remains unclear what will happen to the rooms the restaurants used. Only the one in the Administration building will remain in use for catering of meetings and gatherings.

Many canteen employees have worked for the UU for years; they’re familiar faces to students and employees alike. Time for a last little chat at the locations that recently closed.Evelien, Remo, and Astrid in ‘their’ restaurant in the Minnaert building. Photo: Eva de Koeijer

Minnaert: ‘People would gladly stand in line for our pizzas’

The restaurant in the Minnaert building is large and looks new. Not surprising, considering it had just been renovated and reopened two and a half years ago. The bestsellers here: fresh pasta and pizza, says Remo (31). “I liked making those the best as well,” he laughs. “And it was so busy! People would gladly stand in line for pizza for half an hour. Because yeah, I have two ovens here, so you can only make twelve pizzas at a time. People didn’t even mind waiting. That says a lot – because that’s what you do this for, of course, some honour of your work. I’ll definitely miss that.”

Evelien (51) is in charge of banqueting and supports the restaurant when necessary. During the building’s renovation, the restaurant was closed, so Evelien moved to the kiosk next to it. That kiosk will remain open. She’s worked for the UU catering for about six and a half years now.

Remo has been here for half a year now. Before this, he worked at the Educatorium for three years. He says it’s a shame this location is closing. “I’d really found my place here. And I had great colleagues.”

These colleagues will go their separate ways. Evelien will work for a different catering company outside of the UU, in Amersfoort. “That’s closer to home as well,” she says. For now, Remo will be in charge of the banqueting in this building and will also support the team in the Vening Meinesz building.

Astrid (58) is the team’s veteran. She’s only been with this restaurant for three quarters of the year, but she’s worked as a restaurant employee in De Uithof for nearly forty years. Before Sodexo took over the catering, she’d been employed by the UU. She’s worked – among other places – in the Van Unnik, Langeveld, and Administration buildings: all canteens that have since closed. Astrid laughs: “Everywhere I work, closes.” She’ll now move to the canteen in the Kruyt building. “I’ll be there by myself, so I’ll mostly miss working with others.”

What has she experienced in all these years? “Oh, tons of things! Occupations, that happened a lot in the old days… the police even rode on horses through the Administration building.” She doesn’t remember why the students occupied the place at the time. Astrid has a twin sister who also works in catering, at the faculty of Geosciences. “We live together, with our 85-year-old father. We take care of him. We like doing puzzles at home.”

What Evelien will miss most about this location: the “crazy big events”. “The open days, the Christmas gift market that was held in the hallways here. Big events like those are often held here, because there’s a lot of space. That was special.” She thinks it’s odd that the restaurant is closing. “We had 250 to 300 people here every day. And we were only open from 11.30 to 2. So business was going well, yes.”

Leslie and Will in the canteen of the Androclus building. Photo: Jasper Akkermans

Androclus: ‘The canteen was becoming more and more quiet’

Students and employees at the faculty of Veterinary Medicine fought to keep their canteen, but to no avail. This location, too, closed its doors permanently last Friday.

The ladies of the closing canteen are Leslie (57) and Will (52). Will has worked for the UU for 37 years: fifteen years in the ‘Madame Jeanette’ in the Jeanette Donker-Voet building, and with a number of breaks, a total of around ten years at this location in the Androclus building. Leslie has shared this spot with Will for two years; the two previous years, she’d worked at other locations in the Sodexo regional team. After the closure, both can be found in the Educatorium.

They’ve noticed the canteen getting more and more quiet. “It’s really coming to an end. Especially since customers have known that we’re going to close,” Will thinks. “Last week, we had a whole group of people come in and say goodbye to us. They thanked us, we thanked them. People are sad to see us close. And if I may be honest: I don’t like it either. But we’re not in charge,” Will says. Leslie wonders if the canteen couldn’t have stayed open in a different form. “But there’s another canteen at the Yalelaan (restaurant ‘Madame Jeanette’, ed.),” Will responds, “so it does make some sense to close this one.”

They’ll miss the atmosphere of the canteen the most, they say. Outside of work, Will loves arranging flowers, and Leslie likes to spend time with her grandchildren and her dogs.

Corrina, Lies, and Jacqueline in the Administration building kiosk. Photo: Jasper Akkermans

Administration building: ‘You know everyone, and everyone knows you’

They’ve already said their goodbyes to every customer. “Thank you for the great partnership,” the ladies would say when they sold their sandwiches, soups, and ‘kroketten’ for the last time. The closing of ‘their’ kiosk isn’t easy for them. What will they miss the most? Definitely the people – both each other, the colleagues, and the customers. “You know everyone, and everyone knows you,” says Lies (45). Corrina (56) agrees: “They’re all regulars, the ones who come here. You chat with them.”

The kiosk in the Administration building had closed once before, in 2012. “But the people working in the building missed having a place to get their lunch. We were happy the kiosk reopened two years later,” Corrina says.

This time, the closure is final. The space where the three ladies worked, will soon only be Corrina’s workplace. She’ll stay on and provide ‘banqueting’ services in the Administration building: racing through the building with an electronic cart and a smile to bring coffee and lunch to meeting rooms.

Corrina has worked here the longest. “I started as a temp in the Administration building and the Langeveld building in 1981, and became a UU employee on October 1, 1989 and then moved to the Buys Ballot building. I didn’t like that location as much, but oh well, that was where the vacancy was. I worked there for ten years, then ten more in the Minnaert building. That’s when I moved here, to the Administration building. First as an assistant, later as a manager.” She’s been at the Administration building for ten years now.

When she leaves the university and goes home, she leaves the crowds behind: Corrina lives in the middle of nature. “We just had the first six lambs of the year. Gorgeous, coloured lambs, and we also make our own hay for the animals. It’s wonderful.”

Lies has worked in the Administration building for six years. She’s part of Sodexo’s flex pool, so it’s unknown where she’ll end up. Probably in the Educatorium, or an USBO building, she suspects. “Wherever it’s the busiest, that’s where I’ll be.” In her spare time, Lies loves working on so-called ‘Wasgij’ jigsaw puzzles: a jigsaw puzzle where you’re not given an example of what the end result will look like, only an image that provides some context clues.

Jacqueline (55) has worked for UU catering for 29 years. “I’ve worked at several locations, both in the city centre and De Uithof. I’d be at one place for six weeks, then six years at another.” She’d enjoyed herself, these past few years. “I always went to work smiling, and went back home the same.” Saying goodbye is harder this time than it had been before. Jacqueline is passionate about working out, especially kick boxing, crossfit, and bootcamps. She works out up to five times a week. “You have to keep looking good, you know.”