Easier said than served

Easier said than served

Catering at school canteens does have its challenges

When she heard other students complain about high food prices at her school's canteen, Ruby Leung, a Young Post junior reporter, decided to investigate. She spoke to the catering company's manager and worked a short shift at the canteen.

Here is the result of Ruby's investigation

Earlier this year, Maryknoll Convent School switched to a new canteen caterer, Cafe Concepts. Most students like the new food, but find it too expensive. They also don't like the new paper bags and paper plates their lunches come in. They think it's not environmentally friendly.

I sat down with Herve Bouvresses, the director of Cafe Concepts, to get his response.

Bouvresses said food prices have increased by only HK$1, and that's only because the caterer is providing higher-quality menu items.

I found Cafe Concept's fish balls sell for HK$6 for five pieces, a price students consider quite high. We usually buy the same number of fish balls for HK$5 at the tuck shop by the basketball court near our school. Bouvresses responded that his company used real fish for their fish balls, while balls sold at lower prices are generally made from corn starch. He also told me that Cafe Concepts consults a dietician before placing an item on the menu to make sure all dishes are healthy.

Bouvresses added that a price difference of HK$1 was minimal.

As we need to buy lunch at school for 154 days during a year, however, that difference will eventually amount to an extra HK$154. I think the money could be better spent helping feed a starving child: it costs HK$220 a month to sponsor a child at World Vision.

Students in our school also complained that canteen staff at times shortchanged them. Bouvresses attributed that to honest mistakes. He then invited my classmate Joyce Kan and me to get some hands-on experience at the canteen by serving students during a recess, which lasted 20 minutes.

I ended up selling jelly and sandwiches to my schoolmates, who were all surprised to see me behind the counter.

Bouvresses was right. Many students gave me HK$100 notes and sometimes I got the change all mixed up. It was pretty embarrassing.

Joyce wasn't doing that great, either. She sold pizzas and chocolate croissants. She had a hard time juggling her various duties.

At one time she misplaced a pair of tongs and couldn't find it. Another time she fumbled with putting food items into a paper bag or onto a plate.

The experience taught us a valuable lesson: it's a hard task to serve so many hungry students within such a short time, and everyone can make mistakes.

I still think the fish balls cost too much. But the caterer's noodles are yummy. I might have to think twice about buying the fish balls. But I'll be standing in line for the noodles.

Big thanks to Sabrina Siu for the pictures

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