The company running AAU’s cafeteria says it is lowering prices in answer to student complaints – even though it says it is already losing money. Zatisi Group, which runs Cafe Diem, said it would drop prices from the beginning of May, though at press time prices like 129-149 Kc for a lunch menu and 80 Kc for a sandwich remained the same.
“We are not doing everything for some big profit,” said Operations Manager Petra Kalosova.
“We want to make it work, especially because of our personal tie to AAU,” said floor manager Lucie Burleova. That personal tie is Dana Krautstenglova (mother of the AAU president), a minority stakeholder and a statutory representative of Zatisi Group.
AAU President Alan Krautstengl said he “openly declared” his potential conflict of interest before Zatisi Group was selected to run the Cafe. Moreover, he said he gave specific power to Vera Prevratilova, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, “to make any decision about evaluation and consequent continuing or discontinuing cooperation with Zatisi.
“I have not played, I am not playing and I will not be playing any role in the decision making process about the choice of the food and service provider in the AAU cafeteria as well as possible associated catering needs,” he explained further.
Complicating matters is that Zatisi group says one reason it is losing money is that it pays rent to AAU, and AAU says it does not.
Prevratilova said that Zatisi does not pay any rent to the school. “The rent is not even part of the contract of the sublease,” she said.
Burleova on the other hand said that they do pay rent, however she is not sure how much. “The only thing I can say for certain is that we definitely do pay rent to the school,” she further explained.
“I am sorry, that everybody understands things differently than how they really are,” commented Prevratilova.
Prevratilova offered a possible explanation for the confusion.
According to her, the school has a right to spend 30 000 Kc per month for catering in the Cafe and Zatisi has to cover those costs. However, the school has not used this opportunity until the anniversary of AAU celebration.
Students are mostly concerned about the food prices. An At The Lennon Wall Facebook survey found that 80 percent out of 30 respondents think that the food in the Cafe is expensive.
At the end of May, the university will distribute a Student Satisfaction Survey about the Cafe, which will be a key factor when determining the future of Zatisi at AAU, said Zdenek Johanovsky, AAU Director for Operations.
Based on these results, the school will negotiate with Zatisi and try to change the things that students complain about, he added.
According to floor manager Burleova, Zatisi’s expectations were also a little bit different. “We thought that we will sell much more hot lunches. In the most busy days, we sell around 40 lunches,” she explained.
AAU has around 950 students, taking into account the number of students eating hot lunches at Cafe Diem, the result of calculation shows that only 4 percent of students eat hot lunch there.
The primary problem seems to be the food’s value for the price. According to the survey 56 percent of 67 respondents think that the food is not a good value for money.
“The cold food is made here [at AAU], and the hot food is cooked at our base in Barrandov,” explained Kalosova.
Payment of rent for the Cafe is an issue that AAU and Zatisi do not agree on.
The survey’s results show that 73.33 percent of students think that the Cafe closes too early.
It is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday to Friday.
“There is a hole in the afternoon, when nobody comes,” said Kalosova. To be exact, it is not profitable for them to be open longer.
“Ideally, the opening hours would be longer,” commented Johanovsky.
However, Kalosova came up with an interesting solution for now that should satisfy both sides. A school gift shop will be opened during the summer, so a cooler could be added there and the sandwiches could be sold in the gift shop after the Cafe closes.
As the semester leads to an end, Kalosova proposed a new idea that might work even better: a more-coffeeshop-type of area, rather than a canteen.
“Coffee and sandwiches are definitely the best-sellers,” she added.The system would be similar to Starbucks: one person takes orders, one makes coffee, and the customers take the coffee from a dispensing point.
More details on what will happen next with the AAU’s Cafe Diem will be known at the end of May.