Select Committee on Catering Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 38)



  20. If they are using our facilities then I do not see any reason why if they have got facilities which our staff could use—
  (Mr Cox) That is all I know of up there. I am sorry to interrupt.

  21. That is certainly something that could be looked at and also the press, I wonder how that is utilised and whether or not that could be opened up a little bit more. There is a bar and a cafeteria and all sorts of things up there. I just throw that in, Chairman.
  (Mr Kaye) Yes.

  22. There are other facilities which could be opened up, going back to breaking down some of these barriers, and if there is spare capacity why should people not be able to use them which would alleviate some of the problems.
  (Mr Cox) The press cafeteria gets quite busy on a lunchtime, I use it quite a lot. I do not mean the restaurant part but the bit you walk through.


  23. Would you say that is fairly widely used by members of the staff outside of—
  (Mr Cox) No, it tends to be Hansard, press and people who work up in that area. The doorkeepers do work with the press sometimes so they do not take any notice of us.

  24. That is quite well used, is it?
  (Mr Cox) Yes.

Tony Cunningham

  25. And the restaurant part of it?
  (Mr Cox) I have never used that apart from one Christmas dinner. The cafeteria part closes at quarter to five anyway but at lunchtime that can get quite busy up there after one o'clock.

  Tony Cunningham: I am just trying to look at a whole range of things to open it up a bit.

Mrs Dean

  26. One problem, of course, is that people do not obey the access regulations as they are now and Members are sometimes the worst culprits when they take more guests in than they should. Have you any idea as to how that can be enforced more and whether it should be by Refreshment Department staff or by security staff?
  (Mr Cox) Once upon a time at lunch times there was a security officer outside what was the Strangers Cafeteria and he used to monitor staff. He has got a bit of a problem with Members because frankly if a Member has got four people and says "I am taking them in", what can he do? He was there to check that staff only took two guests in. We have now got the Jubilee Cafeteria for that kind of thing.


  27. How long ago did that cease?
  (Mr Cox) The security officer?

  28. Yes.
  (Mr Cox) Since it was modernised. When you walked in there the shop was down on the left, there was a restaurant to the right for Members and one for staff and there was always a security officer by the staff door. Since that has been modernised, 1996, the security officer has disappeared.

Mrs Dean

  29. I was wondering if Della has got any comments on this?
  (Ms Herd) Yes. It would be difficult for the Refreshment Department staff to monitor access of every single person that went through the venues. They do what they can at the moment to try and stick by the access regulations but it would be very difficult for the Refreshment Department to police that on a consistent basis, especially during peak times, because they are called away to provide the catering services.
  (Mr Cox) I think it would be unfair pressure on the catering staff.

  30. Can I carry on about the difficulties at peak times which obviously is the main problem. If you were looking at the pricing of food could pricing differentials be used in two areas really, one in pricing one place dearer than another perhaps and whether you could have pricing incentives to try to encourage people to go outside the peak lunchtime period? Have you got any views on that?
  (Mr Kaye) I work in a procedural office and again when the House is sitting we cannot wander too far away, therefore we are committed to eating in the main building. I can see a situation where if somebody comes along at five to two and pays £2 and somebody comes in at one minute past two and they pay £1.20—I am looking round corners here—human nature being what it is there could be a feeling of resentment. Perhaps it is worth a shot but I suspect there could be problems with that. Unless you try you will never know, I suppose.

  Mrs Dean: What about pricing different venues differently?

  Chairman: Pricing differentials.

Mrs Dean

  31. Again, I suppose you could have the problem that if you have got to eat in a certain cafeteria it would be unfair to charge you more because that is a popular cafeteria.
  (Mr Kaye) Yes, precisely. I am sure somewhere along the line that someone will whinge about it as sure as eggs are eggs. Unless you have a shot at these schemes and have a trial period you will not know. Perhaps it would be worth a try, who knows, it could be successful.

  32. Any comments from either of you?
  (Mr Cox) I think that is a better idea than dropping prices during certain times of the day. As I was saying earlier on if you go in at lunchtime and a sandwich is £1 but if you wait until three o'clock and get it for 50 pence—I know those are unrealistic prices, I am giving you an example—it would be better to have the prices in different areas rather than they go up and down in the Strangers Cafeteria or wherever. There is also the afternoon snack which some people would use as their main meal. That could be made lower and would encourage people to go later in the afternoon rather than at lunchtime.


  33. You would put that at a lower differential?
  (Mr Cox) Yes. I am not sure what you charge for that because I have never tried it.

  34. Do you think they should be amplified? Do you mean that that we are doing in the afternoon with the jacket potato and so on?
  (Mr Cox) Yes.

  35. There are variations but it is that basic provision.
  (Mr Cox) I do not know how well that is patronised because I do not use it but if it is not being used now maybe lowering the price of that would encourage people, they would say "it is a bit busy lunchtime but I will go for the afternoon snack, not only is it quieter but it is cheaper". Maybe vary it a bit rather than just a jacket potato and a sausage roll.

Tony Cunningham

  36. I am not sure whether there is a solution to this problem which is that you get queues of people at the tills in particular in the Terrace Cafeteria. Have you any thoughts on how we could improve or develop the layout?
  (Mr Cox) Yes, we have got a couple of ideas on that. Very often the third till is not being used in the Terrace when there are queues and sometimes there are not enough people serving. We have also come up with the idea that maybe one of the tills could be for sandwiches and takeaways so if somebody has got a takeaway they are not holding up somebody who has got a meal that is going cold while he is standing there.


  37. That is a fair point. There is never enough time in these sessions, we could go on and have a much wider and broader discussion and we would gain from it but I think our time for your session is rapidly coming to an end. Maybe this is too much of a question at this juncture but if there were three things, three policies, that you would urge on the Catering Committee to respond to in the discussions we have been having and will continue to have until we solve the problems, what would they be? Three items that you could recommend to the Committee as a major contribution to overcoming some of these difficulties.
  (Mr Cox) The barrier in the Terrace Cafeteria is one. Second, find out what is being under-used and open it up. The third one I am struggling with.
  (Mr Kaye) I would certainly recommend long service pass holders to have greater access to the eating facilities. I think that would go some way to alleviating the overcrowding and with a trial period the Refreshment Department could possibly monitor that. That is no criticism of the Refreshment Department because I think they give good value for money.

  38. That is a lovely, wonderful, positive note to end on. Can I thank you very much indeed for coming Ron, Della, Laurie. I hope you do not mind me speaking to you in these personal terms but we all know each other very well.
  (Mr Cox) No, Sir, and on behalf of the three of us thank you for inviting us to put our views.

  Chairman: It is our pleasure and we hope that out of the deliberations we are having and the evidence we are collating that we will find, I do not think a perfect solution to all of our problems but a way through some of the most serious difficulties and provide something better in the Refreshment Department for your staff, which is what our aim and objective is. Thank you very much.

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