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Mensa Expands its Meatless Menu

A current study conducted by the Chemnitz-Zwickau Sudent Union shows the Mensa is changing: more and more guests prefer vegetarian and vegan dishes

Schnitzel with french fries or maybe soy-veggie-Bolognese with hash brown potatoes instead? A current study of students’ eating habits in Chemnitz and Zwickau shows that more and more Mensa guests prefer vegetarian and vegan dishes. However, the proportion of meat-eaters is still high. The Chemnitz-Zwickau Student Union responds to the changing demand with a wider range of meal options.

43 percent of students polled said that they eat meat. 47 percent described themselves as flexitarians – that is, they only eat meat on rare occasions and when it is of very high quality. Seven percent eat a vegetarian diet and one percent strictly vegan. The group made up of flexigans – people who mostly eat a vegan diet, provided there is a reasonable alternative available – make up three percent. “Since September of 2013, we have offered one vegan and at least one additional vegetarian dish almost every day in our Chemnitz Mensas,” says Pierre Pätzold, Director of the Higher Education Catering Department of the Chemnitz-Zwickau Student Union. “However, schnitzel, currywurst and burgers are still the most popular in their original versions.”

This trend can be seen all across Germany: Even though, in a nationwide average, the proportion of vegetarian and vegan meals make up more than 50 percent of all Mensa dishes served, schnitzel or currywurst with french fries are still the top sellers, says Achim Meyer auf der Heyde, Secretary General of the German National Association for Student Affairs (DSW). According to a national study, 82 percent of students eat in the Mensa, primarily at lunchtime and three times per week on average. 37 percent of student Mensa guests are regulars.

Chemnitz Mensa popular at lunchtime

In Chemnitz, it is common to eat in the Mensa: 94 percent of students say they occasionally eat in the Mensa. Around 60 percent are regular guests, however that number has fallen around ten percent since the last survey was conducted in 2012. Only five percent of all 3,500 survey respondents said that they never eat lunch in the Mensa. The number of students who say they never take advantage of breakfast, evening and snack offerings is, however, much higher: over half of students do not visit the Mensa during these times. “We hope to increase the appeal with more up-to-date options,” says Pätzold. “In the future, we want to better meet our guest’s needs and habits with themed evening offers, such as the burger or potato dinners that we already have introduced.”

Satisfaction slightly increased

Compared with the survey results from 2012, the Mensas and Cafeterias in Chemnitz fared a bit better. Particularly the ratings for service and of the locations have improved slightly: Respondents rated employee competence and friendliness as well as wait times and open hours at a 2.2 (2.5 in 2012). For the facilities, they gave a 2.2 (2.3 in 2012). Respondents indicated that there was room for improvement regarding opening hours. 43 percent said that they would use the facilities if they were open during the evening or on the weekend. “We have already taken action on this issue by keeping the Reichenhainer Straße location open later during the exam period,” says Pätzold. “Furthermore, we could consider test openings on certain dates, for example as a study center at the end of the semester or in coordination with a brunch event. In the end, it is up to our guests themselves how sustainable an increase in the opening hours would be in the long term.”

The Chemnitz-Zwickau Student Union runs a Mensa and a Cafeteria on Reichenhainer Straße and on the Straße der Nationen, as well as a Coffeebar in the central lecture hall building on campus. In Zwickau, there are also two Mensas and Cafeterias run by the student union. These facilities can also be used by guests from outside the university. In the Mensa building on Reichenhainer Straße, the student union is pursuing a new concept that puts particular focus on fostering a pleasant atmosphere as well as a flexible and versatile menu.

In total, the 58 combined non-profit student unions under the umbrella of the German National Association for Student Affairs (DSW) operate 955 food service facilities at higher education institutions, including 400 Mensas. Per year, more than 90 million meals are prepared and 200 million snacks are sold in Cafeterias.

More information is available from Sara Schmiedel, Culture and Public Relations Administrator at the Chemnitz-Zwickau Student Union, Telephone 0371 5628-120, E-Mail sara.schmiedel@swcz.de

(Author: Sarah Schmiedel, Translation: Sarah Wilson)

Mario Steinebach

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