The pots are steaming once more at the University canteen on Uhlhornsweg. Students and staff can pick up delicious meals there now that the Studentenwerk has launched a new takeaway service.
How can we continue to provide students and employees with meals? What kind of service can we offer under the current restrictions? The University of Oldenburg's Studentenwerk (student services organization) has put a lot of thought into finding the right answer to these questions in recent months. "Behind the scenes, we looked at many different ideas for getting a service that could meet everyone's requirements up and running," says Christian Jorge Vinz, head of the University's catering services. It was no easy task, he adds. Besides the takeaway option, there was also the idea of using a food truck that would stand in the courtyard of the residential complex on Artillerieweg and serve as a kind of mobile mini-canteen.
However, in the end the idea of a takeaway service based at the canteen located on Uhlhornsweg prevailed. This was the most practical solution, the Studentenwerk concluded. "We have an infrastructure with which we can work efficiently there, and we're also well equipped to adapt to changes in these dynamic times," Vinz explains. Once the idea for a takeaway service was established, everyone involved put a lot of time and effort into the preparations.
First of all, Vinz and his colleagues had to adapt the hygiene and customer management concepts and re-plan staff schedules. After final consultations with the University, the takeaway canteen service was able to launch at the beginning of April. Compared to normal mode, only a small part of the canteen kitchen is currently in use: normally staffed by a team of 50 people, at the moment just two cooks and six kitchen assistants are on duty at the canteen. "We're glad that things are up and running again - even if it feels strange to cook in a quiet canteen kitchen," says Marc Pargmann, who manages the kitchen in Uhlhornsweg. "We're used to communicating with each other between hissing pots and sizzling pans." But while the background noise may be greatly reduced, there is still plenty of cooking going on, because the Uhlhornsweg canteen not only serves members of the University but also provides hot lunches for the Studentenwerk's daycare facilities.
Pargmann also put a lot of thought into menu planning. Members of the University are used to being able to choose from up to seven main courses and six side dishes, plus salad, fruit and desserts. The takeaway menu is less extensive and was deliberately kept simpler at the start. Nonetheless, Pargmann is confident that with two main courses and two side dishes, there will still be something for everyone.
The Studentenwerk also focused on the issue of waste avoidance during the planning process. Due to current distancing and hygiene regulations, customers are not allowed to eat food on site. And for reasons of hygiene, staff and students are not allowed to put the food into containers they have brought themselves. To ensure the safe and eco-friendly transport of the food despite these restrictions, the canteen offers 'Rebowls' – sustainably produced, leak-proof trays with lids. Customers pay a small deposit which is reimbursed upon return. With this system the containers can be re-used again and again. "The Rebowls are very popular, even more so than expected," says Franziska Puczich, press officer at the Studentenwerk Oldenburg. Almost 90 percent of the customers opt for this sustainable solution, but disposable containers made from renewable materials are also available.
The feedback on the takeaway canteen service has been wholly positive so far. Since its launch at the beginning of April, several hundred meals have already passed over the counter. Summing up, Puczich says: "We are delighted to be able to offer students and University employees a culinary service once more."
Pick-up appointments for the takeaway service can be booked here: https://www.studentenwerk-oldenburg.de/de/mensa-reservierung. The canteen is currently open Mondays to Fridays from 11.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m.