A new beginning for Eurest
‘Let's hope students still know where to find our restaurants’
Kim Blokdijk and Matthijs van der Plas, from caterer Eurest, are optimistic about this academic year. They're excited. With special offers and a "travelling kitchen", they hope to convince students and employees to have lunch at one of the eight locations they manage.
"Back to school" is the caterer's theme now that classes have started again. In September, customers can obtain a voucher book at the cash desk of all their restaurants — if completed, it gives them a 50-percent discount on a range of products including a vegetarian kroket sandwich or two soy, almond or oatmilk cappuccinos for the price of one. In the last two weeks of the month, a pop-up kitchen is going to be set up at Educatorium.
"This is the second time there is a pop-up kitchen. The first one was before the summer break. It was called 'Souk' and it offered Lebanese recipes," says Kim Blokdijk. "Now it's time to enjoy some Italian cuisine." Eurest is part of the Compass Group, which manages restaurants in 44 countries. That's actually what's inspired the idea to bring the kitchen of several different countries to Dutch educational institutions and companies. "We organise four pop-up restaurants a year."
Eurest is the successor of Sodexo, who used to manage UU's restaurants before Covid hit. At the time, there were many more restaurants than today. Sodexo decided to close a bunch of them and Eurest will stick to eight locations for the time being. The opening hours have changed too, says Matthijs van der Plas, the Branch Manager responsible for all the restaurants at UU. "Basic products are still offered everywhere, but we don't offer evening meals at Educatorium or the University College anymore. The Educatorium restaurant now closes at 4:00 pm. At UCU, there is sufficient demand for dinner, so now we're offering meals that students can pick up in the afternoon and heat up in the microwave at home."
Van der Plas and his colleagues would like the menu in each of the eight restaurants to be adapted to the demand. "At Madame Jeanette, at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, the clientele comprises employees and pet owners, so the range is not as wide. If people tell us that they miss the pizza that used to be offered by the Minnaert restaurant, then we will consider bringing it back. The pizza oven is still there."
Students must rediscover the restaurants, according to Van de Plas and Blokdijk. After all, only employees and senior students remember the cafeterias from before the pandemic. "Hence this promotion, Back to School," explains Blokdijk. Students attending the Utrecht Science Park literally must find their way to the Educatorium building. "Now that the Van Unnik building is closed, the route between Van Unnik and Educatorium is closed as well. We're not visible from the central square either, where the food trucks are. They are our biggest competitors."
Now that a new academic year has begun, there are students and employees who do go to Educatorium to grab their lunch. Most customers do not go there for a simple cheese sandwich and a milk carton that costs 2.50 euros, according to Blokdijk. "When they come here, they're inclined to spend a bit more money on a fancier lunch." Nevertheless, there's always been critique about the prices at UU's restaurants, which means that the current inflation is Eurest's biggest enemy. "If everything gets more expensive, so will our food."