Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol. 37, No 21. August 28, 1974
Students returning from the August holidays probably have seen the sign on the cafeteria door, informing them that the caf will close at 4.30pm every day. And those wanting hot food will have to pay the higher prices in the restaurant — from 60c for plain fried rice to $1.40 for porterhouse steak The reason? Because during the first six months of this year, an overall loss of $20,754 has been recorded on student meals.
Consequently in the third term, the ground floor dining room will operate only from 9.45am — 4.30pm Monday to Friday, while the shop will be open from 8.30am to 4.30pm. The middle floor restaurant will cater for those with expensive tastes in hot food from 11.30am to 2.30pm and 4.30 to 6.30pm. The top floor coffee bar will be closed down completely.
According to the Union Management Committee, the measures will have the effect of reducing wages 62% and should bring the operation back to its break even point. If it does not, further drastic measures will be taken.
The main reason for the loss is a 50% decrease in takings. This being the result, of a change in student study and eating habits, students no longer adhering to the "hot meal in the middle of the day" custom. Only 200 hot meals per day are sold by the dining room and restuarant, compared with 800 in 1972. This has made evening and weekend services uneconomic.
The Management Committee regrets the changes, but have concluded that students no longer require the range of services previously offered.
However students will have the opportunity of disagreeing with the committee's decisions. A forum to discuss the catering situation and possible solutions to the problems will be held by the Students' Association early this term.
One student's solution
There are many theories as to why the student union catering facilities and service is unsatisfactory in the view of the student masses. However if students stopped moaning and arose out of their apathetic state and contributed constructive ideas to studass, action will come sooner than we think.
For those students who do not know, the catering operation has made a loss of $22,000 for the first six months of 1974. Hot meals will not be served in the dining room during the third term. These now being available only in the restuarant. Inflation, high staff turnover and 'shitty food' are the problems affecting the dining room. The other problem is what son of meal can be provided on what students can afford — 60c for shit or $1 for quality, which isn't guaranteed.
|1)||Closing the entire union catering operation down.|
|2)||A severe cutback in uneconomic catering services, such as hot food in the dining room, closing down of coffee bar, sale of milk, etc.|
|3)||Engage private enterprise, to run the three branches of the catering operations.|
|4)||Ask government or university council to subsidise, the losser, or investigate the possibility of combining our catering operations with Victoria and Weir House.|
|5)||Undertake a scheme to update the facilities which will be flexible enough, for the various types of catering, and be adaptable to change with the times. Staff utilisation, and convenience, should be considered, as should be a group of catering consultants or exports be asked to investigate what the most suitable form of catering would be, to benefit students, clubs, and to foster more student activity on campus.|
The first alternative, is not very constructive. It can only lead to an even greater decline in student use of their own building. However it must be noted that during 1973, not only was there a decrease in the use of the catering services, there was a decrease in the use of the library in spite of the increase of student workloads. University clubs over the same period have not expanded to their greatest potential.
Overheads, old outdated and faulty; equipment and milk bottle thieves, are contributing to these losses. Either way, whether the cafe is closed or not the students will have to pay or they loose the benefit of eating there.
Cutting back uneconomic services means less potential for increased use of union facilities and deprives others of the benefit of the Union Building. The coffee and milk comes under this category. No hot food in the dining room means students will have o walk to the Grand for a hot meal at 65c (unless students are rice fanatics).
However meals at this price are obviously subsidised by liquor profits.
Another idea being discussed is splitting the catering operation into three — run by three private firms. Although profitable in concept it would not be beneficial to students. A more constructive proposition would be to encourage greater use by upgrading the facilities of the restaurant (and cafe) — make kitchens more flexible, provision for bar etc. Comparable to that of a reception room, which could be hired to private enterprise, any night of the weak. All studass would have to do, is collect the hiring fee.
The top could be better utilised — a bar could be built with the milk bar being more flexible — such as a kitchen with facilities to prepare food as in a reception room.
Another way of eliminating losses is to obtain a government subsidy, or make the university council run the catering operation although this may be the only realistic alternative, it would lead to the respective Institution dictating to students as to what services should be provided. The loss of student control over their own catering operation would be unfortunate because the cafe in spite of difficulties could be a profitable concern, which will ultimately benefit students. The possibility of combining our catering operations with the boarding houses. This would result in a better utilisation of staff of the operations concerned. More permanent staff would moan better food.
The final alternative which would benefit students, but would be very costly is to split the cafeteria into two lounges. Briefly this would mean the provision of two bars, one for each lounge; four food bars, nova grill, sandwich-cold food bar, servery for hot meals — such as in the Grand Hotel ground floor bars and a takeaway bar. This would be a modified scramble race system or a mini scale. Each of these serveries would, be flexible, so as to be adaptable to changing eating habits of students in the future.
The provision for a dance floor in one of the lounges along with liquor and food would encourage more student participation or use of campus facilities, something that is almost nonexistent at present. Brightly coloured paint, a light coloured lino, or brightly coloured carpet would eliminate the depressing atmosphere of the cafe, The dishwasher should be resited. By putting one beside each entrance, this would oblige students to take their dishes back as they walk out the door. This would mean a slight resiting of the shop to have its opening in the union foyer and repositioning of some cooking facilities. This can be taken advantage as most of the equipment needs replacing or can be eliminated.
Students will have to improve their eating and drinking habits — remember we are people not animals. Evidence overseas indicates there are high standards and good discipline present in campus bars — a good argument for licensed campus liquor facilities.
Air conditioning and some sort of stereophonic system for music is a must. An intercom system is apparently under consideration. These two lounges would not only be ideal for student use, but would be of a good enough standard to be used by private enterprise for socials etc. The kitchen, of course, would have to be very adaptable for this purpose.
No doubt there will be problems in bringing a scheme such as this into reality. Inflation costs, a liquor license and student apathy are the biggest hurdles. There are ways of getting round the liquor licence, such as a chartered club with certain hours of opening, or each club and faculty could work a roster system, hiring one of the lounges from Studass and have it billed as a private function.
The purpose of this article is not to bring a scheme into operation, but to circulate some constructive, realistic ideas which could be improved upon, A talent poll of 6000 bears out this fact. The ultimate result could be beneficial for students, student activities (cultural affairs) and student clubs and possibly more finance for union extensions.
—Paul J. (Spud) Murphy