University canteens

Students complain of cold food and limited choices

by Suzanna Wong

Canteens are a must to students, especially those who live in hostels. Students in different institutions have their own views about their school canteens.

Usually they are not very happy with their own school canteens.

This is the view of a typical student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Mr. Wong Sun Kit: "I seldom have lunch in the school canteen. The food is cold, and the choices are very limited.

"Whenever I enter the canteen, I see a big crowd of people. My immediate response is just to go away. I would rather have lunch at home or outside the campus," said Mr. Wong.

Mr. Hui Yee King, a Year 2 student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, described the food there as "fluorescent rice" because of the artificial colour of the rice. Besides, he complained that there were too few choices and the food was not fresh.

Nevertheless, there are still some students who are quite happy with their school canteens.

Miss Tam Wing Han, a Year 3 student at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, said, "Actually, we cannot expect much since the price is low. Therefore, we cannot demand the food and service like that of hotels."

As school canteen managers have contracts with the institutions they serve, they work closely with the school authorities and the student unions. School canteens also get approval from them before they raise prices.

"Actually," said Miss S.K. Lau, the catering manager of the Cafe de Coral at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, "we are running a similar system just like other branches outside the campus.

"The only difference is that we are under supervision of the school authority.

"Besides, there are more people coming during rush hour like 12-1:30 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. However, during non-rush hours, the canteen is nearly empty," said Miss Lau.

Nevertheless, she thought campuses were potential markets for catering.

On the other hand, running a school canteen is not an easy task.

Mr. H.K. Wong, a shareholder of the "snack bar" which is one of the school canteens at The Chinese University, said that people always have many false illusions about running campus canteens.

"People always think that we are making huge profit since there are so many students," said Mr. Wong. "Frankly speaking, we are not making much profit since we have to sell the food at a rather low price. "Moreover, we are under great competition. Even if we just raise the price a little bit, our business will slow down.

"Besides, we lose quite a lot of money buying new utensils. Students always take forks, spoons and knives away to the conference rooms and then do not return them," said Mr. Wong.

Apart from the problem of missing utensils, recruiting staff is also difficult.

"The resignation rate is very high," said Mr. Wong. "It is very difficult to employ staff since the university is remote."

Meanwhile, many students have their ideal canteens in mind.

Mr. Ng Pak Tao, a student of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, said, "To me, an ideal canteen should be clean, especially the utensils.

"Besides, the food should be delicious and cheap. Also, it should provide more choices."

Similarly, a student of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Phoebe Tsang Chui Pik, said, "In my mind, an ideal canteen should be big and comfortable.

"Besides, it should be checked by the student union regularly on the qualities of food and services.

"Most importantly, it should have a free telephone and a lavatory," said Miss Tsang.

Some students also would like to see the canteens extend the service hours. However, Mr. Wong of the "snack bar" said that would be difficult.

"The demand is not so great after 7:30 p.m.," said Mr. Wong. "We cannot afford the expense just by serving a small group of people."

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