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dBs Catering Faces Chop

Mar 22 2007 17:41
Ashley Brown
Catering in dBs is to be reviewed due to a lack of customers, after the refurbishment of Beit and the JCR hit trade.
dBs ... queueless at the height of lunchtime

ICU's executive committee has asked for a review of the lunchtime catering option in dBs as the current sandwhich bar is losing money. In a controversial executive meeting today, Deputy President (Finance & Services) Jon Matthews presented the results of a comprehensive analysis of Beit's trading services.

The figures show that whilst the refurbishment hit everywhere hard, the catering offering in dBs is making losses due to a lack of customers. In the past few years queues for the dBs sandwhich bar had been quite long, often stretching right back to the doors. Since the opening of the refurbished JCR - co-inciding with the refurbishment - patrons have not returned, lured by lower prices and higher quality offered by College.

dBs as a venue is looking very sorry for itself of late; half of the lights appear to be broken or off most of the time, with tables and chairs stacked up, limiting the number of people able to enter the venue to sit down and eat.

During filming of stoic tv's "Ask the President" on Tuesday ICU President John Collins described dBs (the room, not the catering) as "atrocious" and "a dump". However, nothing further is due to be done to the room for at least 18 months, as the "masterplan" will not return to the ground floor until at least the next phase is complete.


The net result of these problems was for the DPFS to recommend the closure of the dBs sandwhich bar, with a review of what to replace it with. Options include a different food offering or perhaps the option of sub-letting the space to an external provider.

Catering in da Vinci's and the bars now seem to be performing well after a drop due to the refurbishment. There are however serious concerns with the trading operations, with Mr Collins stating there was risk of "wiping out our reserves", going on to say he was not sure "if we are going to make a profit this year".


Beit Towers is increasingly showing signs of collapsing in on itself, with poor communication seeming to be a major problem. Two recent executive committees have had disagreements between staff and sabbaticals about trading figures, with today's being especially harsh. It is unusual for a sabbatical to be analysing operational figures, as analysis and response to competition such as the JCR is well within the remit of staff to handle, but this appears to not have been done.

An anonymous source indicated to Live! that uncertainties over the future of Beit's operations are causing concern amongst staff, with rumours that the whole lot will be farmed out to College bit by bit. DPFS Jon Matthews stated quite aggressively that he had no intention of handing Beit's services to College, but was repeatedly cut off by ICU President John Collins when asked about the future of the Union Shop.

Communication between sabbaticals and staff is showing a concerning breakdown, perhaps requiring heads to be bashed together to correct it.

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Discussion about “dBs Catering Faces Chop”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Mar 22 2007 18:34

Ahh, the SSP. A**es.

Mar 22 2007 20:58

Is "Ask the President" out yet? I am running out of ways to procrastinate...

Mar 22 2007 21:30

It's coming, it's coming.... These things don't edit themselves, you know ;)

Mar 22 2007 23:57

Well as long as you can hold off till after 12 tomorrow (oops sorry today) I might pass my exam. Or I could always watch back issues... :D

5. Hmm.   
Mar 23 2007 10:28

"analysis and response to competition such as the JCR is well within the remit of staff to handle,"

Day-to-day things, yes. But would you really want as big a decision as closing an outlet- which is tied up in deeply political notions of what's there as a welfare service, what's there as a cash cow, what can/can't be considered as a loss leader- made by unelected staff?

6. pg   
Mar 23 2007 11:22

I think I would expect staff to recommend closure or change if an outlet is losing money. I wouldn't expect them to close it off their own back, but rather that they take a recommendation to the President/DPFS.

Now, we've seen previously that there seems to be a counter-productive interpretation of the SSP going on, where some staff feel/have felt they aren't allowed to express their opinions about their area of expertise, which is clearly nonsense.

I guess it is this breakdown that the last sentence of the article describes: staff are too scared to express their views to sabbs (or even higher managers?) and the sabbs are having to do the work.

Of course the other possibility is that there's been a lot of people banging their heads against a wall trying to get information out and it just isn't forthcoming. In that case we've got a more serious problem: everything I've said above relies on the staff being willing and able to freely co-operate.

Mar 23 2007 12:36

I think they should go ahead and close the dB's catering... it's c**p anyway. SAF and JCR have plenty of decent food nowadays.

Mar 23 2007 13:42

dB's is probably also losing customers due to the new Subway (not the underground passage!) in south ken

9. jess   
Mar 23 2007 14:22

used to be that db's was kept nice for the lunch hour, all the tables would be put out with chairs around them and sometimes there were even gingham tablecloths (not very often)

i think the catering staff used to sort out the room before opening the sandwich bar; is this no longer the case?

Mar 23 2007 14:31

Doesn't look like it...

11. jess   
Mar 23 2007 17:01

then surely rather than just shutting it down, it would be better to attempt to make the place more hospitable for lunch first and see if it helps??!

12. anon   
Mar 24 2007 00:41

At the moment it's more of a case of hostile than hospitable in dB's!

Mar 26 2007 14:50

I think if we had candles on all the tables and waiter service it wouldn't save dBs. The JCR just plain offers better food at a lower price in a location closer to most peoples lecture theatres.

14. jess   
Mar 26 2007 18:51

that's the kind of defeatist attitude that gets sandwich bars closed down, james millen!

Mar 26 2007 19:02

dBs has had four problems:

  1. no-one knows its there
  2. it doesn't look like it serves food when you walk in
  3. it's a total dump
  4. the quality is lower than the JCR and the prices are more expensive - no meal deal this year!

It used to be full a couple of years ago because it was well advertised and provided a reasonable place to eat lunch (even if you didn't buy it from the sandwich bar).

There are now barely any tables out, the lighting is even worse than it used to be and the place is filthy.

Competition from the JCR means that some innovation is required - the sandwich bar should close, to be replaced with something else. The venue needs to be more inviting than the JCR or cheaper... or needs a good marketing campaign "get away from your department for lunch, come to dBs in the union..."

16. jess   
Mar 27 2007 02:29

"the sandwich bar should close, to be replaced with something else"

dBs always had something about it, it was just that little bit closer than the sandwich shop even if it was more expensive/not as nice, and if they can do it on gloucester road in a massively overpriced smallholding with several illegal immigrants as employees, i find it hard to believe they can't do it in the union where overheads are much smaller and they have fewer staff to pay. the sandwich shop can even afford to give away free "fell off the back of a lorry" apples to keep their customers HEALTHY. five a day kids!

wipe the tables, mop the floor properly and get the lights switched on (the bar staff have access to all the lights in the bar area, and the rest are controlled from in the dj booth). in my opinion, there's not another option for the sandwich bar whilst dv's is still selling decent hot food at lunchtime. it's sandwiches, or shut it down - and it just seems a shame to go belly-up, white flag out at the first sniff of a competition.

everyone seems to be so down on the place, all it really needs in my opinion is a bit of a lift and people will start going back there.

Mar 27 2007 06:20

It's not a question of whether or not we want to shut db's down. Having seen the figures I know it is more a question of can we afford to keep it open? The catering outlets as I understand it (please jump in and correct me if I remembered the figures wrong) are making a loss on budget. 98% of this is contributed to db's alone. The only way to avoid this loss would be to close it down altogether while we have a bit of a rethink. It may be that we reopen it with all of the suggestions you have made in mind. But something needed to be done and this is just the first step in trying to resolve the problem.

(oh, and the lighting issue isn't a case of the bar staff not knowing how to switch them on, it is more that the bulbs have blown and noone has bothered to replace them...)

Mar 27 2007 09:05

Remember that the sandwhich shop would be closed over Easter anyway, so we have a grace period to think up a plan...I say put a SubWay in there, that'd be one in the eye for the JCR ;)

19. Lara   
Mar 27 2007 10:01

SubWay serves probably the nastiest sandwiches ever. Why would anyone want to eat there?

The sandwiches in the JCR do unfortunatley take dbs and wipe the floor with it. Location, choice of food, price all make the new sandwich outlet in the JCR a much better choice all around. I agree with Ashley something different is called for, unless you can match or better the JCR people aren't going to make the little "wander over the road" when there is something else closer by. Is it really a case of get out whilst there is a bit of competition, college have come out and really turned around their catering outlets. If it finally forces db's to close, then so be it, it is better to have it shut whilst discussions are ongoing as to the future, then have it open, further making a loss, and generally getting into a worse state.

20. Eugene   
Mar 27 2007 19:29

I still maintain there is scope for a Nando's to open somewhere on campus.

If it's not going to replace that crusty fast food joint in JCR, what about dBs...

Mar 27 2007 23:27

"oh, and the lighting issue isn't a case of the bar staff not knowing how to switch them on, it is more that the bulbs have blown and noone has bothered to replace them..."

A bulb blew in the DJ booth on a Saturday while running an event. We asked the bar staff if we could have a bulb, and they said "oh no, we have to get Estates to do it". F'ing ridiculous, if true.

We just went to the hardware shop on Gloucester Road and bought a few bulbs.

22. Seb   
Mar 28 2007 00:50

On the note of getting fixes done quick, why is the urinal in the gents toilets next to the staircase not fixed?

I appreciate we have been suffering some vandalism, but it's been at least a month, and I'm an off campus student and noticed it. Fix it. If you leave dammage like that around, it only encourages further vandalism. Broken windowpane theory etc.

23. jess   
Mar 28 2007 04:15

my my kirsty, we're touchy today aren't we! i didn't say the bar staff didn't know how to switch a light on, i merely pointed out the locations of the switches. the bar in dbs is very rarely open on a lunchtime.

andrew, it is a sad fact of life that indeed, the bar has to ask estates for light bulbs. they aren't "qualified" to replace the bulbs themselves, in case they are too stupid to change a light bulb and electrocute themselves. ("how many bar staff does it take to change a light bulb? none, that is well against health and safety regulations, DO YOU KNOW HOW DANGEROUS IT COULD BE?"). this is p***ing annoying when all the bulbs have gone, because it's not like you can call the shift engineers and say "daaaave, can we have a new lightbulb?" as he knows full well you are grown up enough to replace it yourself and will get very cross . so you have to wait for estates to get a ticket and send someone out in the day to do it. which will take two weeks. by which time seventy other bulbs have gone, and you need a ticket for ALL OF THEM.

mick, rob and si (sorry to bring them up again) used to keep a box of bulbs in the bottle store, for all purposes. don't tell health and safety!! to be fair, the fluorescent bulbs above the back bar in da vinci's are a real bitch to change and estates are welcome to them. my favourite bulbs were the ones in dbs, above the front bar, where the electrics were so dodgy they blew on average once a week.

this is what i know about the bulbs in the union and bureaucracy involving estates and light bulbs. i hope this information helps someone, somewhere, some day.


ps, why not just block off ALL the lights in dbs and have a daily game of murder in the dark at lunchtimes. a sure crowd puller and you negate the need for light bulbs immediately. while they're over there, you could sell them all stale baguettes full of gone off meat!! a genius business plan ;)

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