Cleaning and Catering

In: Uncategorized

22 Feb 2012

Among the major dissatisfiers in any professional environment are the cleanliness of the location and the quality of its catering. When it’s ok, nobody talks about it, except when you have contracted a 2 star Michelin chef (as business school IMD in Lausanne once did). When it’s not ok, everybody is unhappy. Unfortunately, we (the EUR) have issues with both. The catering issue is a disappointing price/performance ratio, as clearly communicated by students and staff alike, most recently in the staff engagement survey. The executive board hears this feedback and is taking it up with the caterers as a matter of urgency. I don’t want to overpromise, as we are contractually tied and cannot change conditions unilaterally, but it is clear that improvements are needed. The cleaning issue is more complex, as it strictly does not regard the university. A conflict between the cleaners and their employer about certain labour conditions has led to a series of strikes over the last few months. Of course I understand that it is not enough to say ‘thank you’ and be kind to the cleaners, this in and of itself does not improve their labour conditions. And it is a fact that we have contracted a party that won the tender based on a number of criteria, including price. Labour conditions are important, and cleaning personnel, just like other staff, have certain entitlements (including, to name just a few, basic respect and paid sick leave). It is inappropriate for me to blog or brag about confidential discussions between the executive board and the university’s contracting parties. But we do emphasise the importance of decent working conditions in all our contractual relationships.

3 Responses to Cleaning and Catering


Joey Johannsen

February 25th, 2012 at 13:00

Dear Pauline,

We would like to thank you for responding so swiftly and directly to the results of this recent survey. A campus food service means so much to the vitality of its campus members. We understand contract constraints, but as members of Rotterdam School of Management, we are keenly aware that the social capital built in the relationship between customer and business is much more than an agreement to simply show up and place food on a shelf for purchase. As leaders of Greening RSM, seeking to push the sustainability agenda (, we also look at environmental aspects of catering.

Our view is that a food service that is aware of and responsive to customer identity and distinct needs while being aware of its impact on the day-to-day business of a campus is important and is half of the equation; RSM has a growing community of flexitarians and vegetarians (including vegan eaters) find little in the way of quality food products without meat, eggs or dairy additives. This remains the case following two series of Albron customer surveys. The Netherlands is rich in vegetable production and export, yet bread with meat and cheese, while common to a traditional diet is not necessarily the staple food for an international palate. The reduction of animal based product consumption (meat, dairy and eggs) reduces greenhouse gas emissions very significantly and consistently proves health benefits.

The other half of the equation is post-product consumption and unmonitored waste streams. We have observed that many Albron food stations on campus increasingly present food more like a pre-packaged fast-food stop at a train station than a catering service for a captive audience in a sit-down restaurant on an interactive university campus. The downside of this is that unnecessary packaging waste piles up. The mounting costs of removal of waste and the rise of related greenhouse gas emissions should raise the same urgency of dialogue.

Staff and students have made us aware of their growing concern about the number of plastic bottles and amount of packaging materials with a one-shot life and quick disposal. Also of concern are the overflowing waste bins due to a lack of coordinated effort between Albron and Erasmus Facilities Bureau (EFB). Meetings between Greening RSM and Albron to address the issues have been non-productive.

“People and planet” are important components of a sound business plan. The EFB is in charge of waste processing. To date, EFB has been reluctant to offer appropriate bins for separate items: waste, glass, and plastic. Paper bins are readily visible, but we often witness recyclable items cast into the only waste bin in food service locations.

We agree that swift attention for the sake of the students and employees is necessary, especially to realize the sustainability ambition of Erasmus University. We are an international community. We in turn can learn much from international organizations dedicated to collegiate food services.

In closing, we offer comments from the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS), a revered organization that supports 550 institutions of higher education from across the U.S. and Canada. They state:

“Higher education is on the forefront of today’s efforts to conserve natural resources and minimize the impact of human activity on the environment. Operating in a sustainable manner is embraced by all segments of the campus community, particularly dining services, where the selection, preparation, delivery, and disposal of food and beverages affect the environment in so many ways. The foodservice staff faces a multiplicity of decisions on how to satisfy their customers and generate a financial return to their institutions with minimal environmental degradation. It’s a daunting challenge made more difficult by the fact that virtually every aspect of campus foodservice contains a sustainability component”. They offer a Sustainability Guide: (
We treasure this campus and are committed to work with you for its success. We would be delighted to discuss our ideas with you in more detail. Thank you in advance for your response and attention for the benefit of all involved in the sustainability of this educational enterprise.

Kind regards, The Greening RSM Team:
Joey Johannsen, Program Manager
Frank Wijen, Coordinator
Justine Whittern, Communications Manager
Milen Petkov, Student Assistant


henk schol

February 28th, 2012 at 13:56

Zeer geachte mevrouw,
Wellicht wordt het tijd dat we normaal respect en normale arbeidsvoorwaarden niet alleen ‘belangrijk’ vinden, maar dat we die ook als criteria hanteren in een tender. Zou een interessante voorhoederol opleveren voor een ‘beschavingsinstituut’ als de EUR.
Ik mag toch ook hopen dat een cateraar die ver onder de maat presteert daar niet mee wegkomt, al wapperende met een contract: of staat daarin dat kwaliteit er niet toe doet? In zo’n overeenkomst wordt naar ik hoop opgenomen bij welke – meer structurele – klant(-on-)tevredenheidscijfers maatregelen volgen of zelfs afscheid wordt genomen van de cateraar.

Met beleefde groet,
henk schol (student bestuurskunde)


Pauline van der Meer Mohr

March 14th, 2012 at 16:11

Uiteraard zijn dit criteria die ook in een tender gelden.

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Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam

Pauline van der Meer Mohr is president of the Executive Board and is responsible for general administrative matters, such as the relationship with the Board of Trustees and the University Council. She focuses on the strategic policy, international affairs and external contacts, including the Rotterdam region, industry and other knowledge institutions.

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