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Salient. Official Newspaper of Victoria University Students Association. Volume 40, Number 3. March 14, 1977.

Why is the Cafe so Uneconomic?

Why is the Cafe so Uneconomic?

All the losses have been on student meals, while the shop and the cafeteria's outside catering business have always made a profit. In the past (before 1971) the outside catering turnover was lucrative enough to subsidize the student meals but since then changing economic conditions have made this impossible. Another factor is that because of its limited facilities (such as no lift) the Union catering service is at a disadvantage when competing with downtown caterers.

Particular reasons for the big losses last year were poor costing (poor being sold at less than cost price) and food being made on the premises. Pies, cakes, sandwiches and rolls were all made at the cafeteria, and thus their quality was ensured, but the high amount of labour involved made them uneconomic.

This year a business manager has been employed to keep a strict eye on the turnover and ensure correct pricing, and cakes and pies are being bought wholesale (this means their quality can't be ensured, but also that the cafe doesn't lose so much money on them).

One other problem that has particularly plagued the cafe is difficulty in getting staff. It employs 7 full tim staff (Business manager, cafering manager, 3 full-time counter hands, 2 full time kitchen hands) and a large number of part-timers including many students.

As the Union Manager Nofo Falealili told me, the first problem is getting these staff. The cafe only employs them from February to November, so it's understandable people are reluctant to work with no guaranteed future. And many of the students leave at the busiest times of year because these are also the busiest study times (and that's understandable also).

The present number of staff is a bare minimum. They just manage to cover the hours 8a.m. to 6.30 p.m., but sometimes there is only one person there, so it's sailing pretty close to the wind. More part-time and less full-time staff could be employed but logistically this would be very difficult.

This does not mean these problems are insurmountable and Nofo told me they are determined to make the cafe break even, but they are the kind of things the Union Mangement Committee and its catering sub-committee are faced with.