For the people who were here during BK’s previous years, the espresso bar next to the Orange Hall was a significant part of our daily lives. Whether a coffee lover, tea drinker or just hungry for a panini or apple, the place offered a cosy social pocket, a break within the busy architecture department.
From the start of this year, we saw a switch from Sodexo to Cormet as the managing company of the university’s eating and drinking venues. Sodexo used to provide food and beverages across the whole campus in the past, but this year things changed and our daily provision of drinks and food was passed into the hands of Cormet.
Instead of acting as a single catering company like Sodexo, Cormet employs different small companies, meeting the university’s ambitions to provide more variety and competition across venues on campus, with numerous choices to accommodate all tastes; we can now have poke bowls in Pulse, authentic Italian pasta in Aerospace Engineering and enjoy a food market in the Fellowship building.
And this is how Vascobelo, a not-so-small Belgian coffee chain with multiple stores throughout the Netherlands and abroad, was chosen as the new espresso bar company.
A major drawback on this switch however was that, according to the BK Vascobelo manager, Sodexo, being such a large enterprise, had the ability to offer lower prices for its coffee, whereas local ‘small’ entrepreneurs struggle to provide a good cup of coffee fit for a student’s budget. Many students, and even staff, changed their coffee rituals, or turned to the coffee machines for an affordable drink.
Another aspect that was not entirely addressed during this abrupt change (which could be among the decisive factors of why people started avoiding the espresso bar) was the bar’s social role within BK. Top-down decisions might appear seemingly efficient, but in our case, the switch was not taken as wholeheartedly by its everyday users. Apart from the queue being a classic meeting point for a pause in our fast-paced routine, it was an opportunity to chat with everyone including Wendy, Sharda and Sumaira, the staff who knew exactly what everyone wanted. Hanging around the bar was really a beautiful part of our daily lives which was unexpectedly taken away from us.
Additionally, along with our era’s rising café studying culture, the bar had seen more and more students & staff frequenting the space, either for informal study groups or even tutorials when studios were overtaken by models and loud voices. It was a form of a getaway from a strictly work atmosphere of BK, but still beig a part of it, with a dose of coffeehouse cosiness.
As a result, the new espresso bar was in the crossroads of many individual complaints voiced throughout the faculty at the beginning of the new semester.
As students were increasingly showing their negative reaction to the new change, an effort was made to make the frustration raised from the change known in a collective way; a facebook event called ‘Bring Your Own Coffee Week’ was organised by students in the first week of the semester.
Catherine Koekoek, one of the students organising the event says; ‘we do not represent anyone. Having noticed that everyone was talking about this problem, we decided to take action through this event’.
The attention it got was particularly noteworthy. A large amount of students showed up with their own brewed coffees in their thermoses and served the rest of the students and faculty members. Moreover, the event organisers were invited to the meeting table between Cormet, TU Delft representatives, the management team of the faculty, representatives of students and staff from Stylos and FSR.
During the meeting, important issues were discussed such as the almost 50% increase of the coffee price, the reduced coffee quality and long wait. It was also said that the former espresso bar baristas were offered a contract by Vascobelo, but eventually chose to work for Cormet elsewhere on campus.
In reality, according to ex-barista Sumaira, the previous staff were offered less hours than what they originally asked for, so as a result had to move elsewhere in campus to make ends meet financially (note: Sumaira is doing well, is currently working at the Aerospace Engineering faculty and will be delighted to see familiar faces from BK, so please go say hi if you are around the university’s wild south.)
Eventually, Vascobello was encouraged to introduce alternative ways of price reduction, through the method of potential early bird discount or a price drop to €2-2,20 for a cappuccino or a small discount when people bring their own cups.
Indeed, as of the 5th of November, these demands were finally addressed. Coffee prices have now been reduced by €0,30 and an extra €0,10 will be taken off your receipt if you bring your own cup. So, your cappuccino can be reduced to €2,10 instead of the former €2,50. Adding to that, all the food provided by them has also seen a reduction in price such as the toasties, croissants and fruit.
Now this might seem as a small step, but it only is the start of a long journey, where students learn to take matters in their own hands reacting to seemingly inconspicuous but nevertheless serious unfairness. It proved how it is possible to bring about change when we get together and ask for what we deserve through dialogue and valid arguments. We should be proud of that.
So in the end, is this a success story? Well, it definitely is a start of one.