Like many souls at College I am often forced to use Imperial's outrageously over-priced and poor-quality catering outlets. One of the less obnoxious outlets was the Cafe in the Sir Alexander Felming (SAF) building foyer.
Supposedly for the use of medical staff and students the SAF cafe has proven very popular with many non-medics. It has, in particular, developed a repuation for its paninis - miniscule, unfilling pieces of toasted bread that some people consider to offer value for money. Now College catering have come up with a new wheeze to squeeze money out of students. They have not raised prices. Instead they have merely withdrawn all "special offers". These are the "special offers" that have been running since the cafe opened - and the mainstay of all sales!
So, take a panini - the most commonly bought thing in the cafe. Up until this week you could get one with a soft drink for £2.00 (which is what everyone used to get). Now that "special offer" has been withdraw. So, on top of your £1.80 for the panini you need to spend a bargain 50p on the drink - a total price increase of 15% (which is about four times the rate of inflation). Even worse is the deal with coffee. £1 used to get you a coffee and either a doughnut or pack of freshly-baked cookies (which is almost reasonable priced). Now because this long-running "special offer" has been discontinued, its 70p for the coffee and 60p (ten times what Tesco would charge you...) for the fricking doughnut. That's an outrageous 30% price increase!!
I (unfortunately) happen to be sitting next to a Mr Oliver Pell. Mr Pedant himself believes that College catering makes a £100,000 annual loss (which if Oliver thinks is true, probably is). Apparently this includes the takings from the Southside bar, Holland Club and function catering - so one can only imagine how much money they lose on lunchtime catering.
Why are they so rubbish?? Their food is (mostly) junk. It's overpriced. If their making a loss their either incompetent or getting ripped off by their suppliers (or both). Many other Colleges around London have much better quality catering at lower prices. (In particular the Royal College of Art has a very nice cafe that seems to serve most IC people than artists.) How do they manage this? Simple. They OUTSOURCE.
In completely unrelated developments a new EPOS system has been fitted in QT (the snack bar serving stale sandwiches in the JCR). They are now asking people to provide their swipe card for, well, swiping. Apparently if you don't have your swipe card you still don't get charged the VAT, so why are they doing this? Presumably to collect marketing information. But why? What could they possbily do with it? I can't imagine them putting beer and nappies together in QT's. (Well maybe in the Holland Club...) And anyway, I bet they've forgotten to register this new system under the data protection act.
Why do we put up with this level of incompetence? A couple of decades ago the students actually boycotted College catering to force through improvements in quality. Frankly there's more chance of hell freezing then there is of a similar "campaign" being orchestrated by students at Imperial today.
PLEASE SIR RICHARD, OUTSOURCE COLLEGE CATERING. I BEG OF YOU!!