Feedback invited on catering and amenity offer on South Kensington Campus

Feasibility study reviewing space on Level 0 Sherfield Building including Holland Club

Staff and students are invited to offer input to a feasibility study, which will consider how the space on Level 0 at the western end of the Sherfield Building could be optimised to provide social facilities and amenities to members of the Imperial College community.

Portfolio Review Board (PRB) took this decision in order to address a growing concern over our ability to deliver a good experience on campus for all staff and students.   Alongside outstanding facilities for academic activities, the College aims to provide high-quality services and social spaces to meet the needs of the community, for example common rooms and catering outlets.   On the South Kensington Campus, these have reached saturation point.   In 2010-11, the College provided catering services to a footfall of 2.5 million and was still unable to meet demand.   Student feedback has also highlighted that taught postgraduates would welcome more appropriate common room provision on campus.

The feasibility study will explore how the space on Level 0 of Sherfield could be used to help address the issues above.   The study will include a review of the space currently occupied by the Holland Club, which has a floor area comparable to that of the Senior Common Room, and will consider:

–       what additional catering and amenities would best serve the needs of staff and students on the South Kensington Campus;

–       whether any new facilities should be open to all members of the community or to just a segment;

–       how the ethos of the Holland Club might be maintained within any new facilities.

The feasibility study will be led by the Director of Commercial Services, Jane Neary, working with Building Projects.

To offer input, please email or post a comment below.

The Portfolio Review Board will review the results in Q2 2012 and determine next steps for the project.

71 comments for “Feedback invited on catering and amenity offer on South Kensington Campus

  1. I think that the Holland Club should remain as a post graduate and staff bar and requires no improvement to the facilities what so ever (apart from a lick of paint). The Holland Club has been a great place to socialise for post graduates and staff for many years (40 in my case) and I believe it should remain.
    The thought of the catering department getting their hands on it is unthinkable. Look what a dismal substitute the Eastside Bar is, supposedly replacing the highly popular Southside Bar but failing completely.
    Also catering insist on stocking poor quality sandwiches inferior to the basic ranges provided by most supermarkets.
    No leave the Holland Club as a seperate entity.

  2. In my view, the Holland Club presents a vital space for staff and postgraduates to relax, socialise and even occasionally get some work done. It would be a crying shame to lose this for more College catering space. It’s a refreshingly different place compared to the rest of the College’s facilities. Please leave it be.

  3. Just got the staff briefing which talks about the feasibility study and asks for comments to be sent to but does not suggest commenting on this blog.
    The good thing about this blog is that it is open to all to read, as well as comment and as of yet I don’t know of any way of knowing how many people have commented by email and what their opinions are.
    If people want to make a comment without it being in the public domain then that’s fine. As long as they know that this bog exists as an alternative

  4. I have been a PhD student at Imperial since 2008, and I have always viewed the Holland Club as a welcoming and accessible place to wind down at the end of a long day in the lab. Despite the presence of other bars on campus, they are more geared towards social drinking for undergraduates and hence are not relaxing places to spend social time for postgraduate students and staff.
    If the Holland Club were closed, it would have a detrimental effect on the enjoyment of Imperial by a significant proportion of its corpus. The college is not just for the undergraduates! For those who work here all year round, a new catering outlet, which will lie dormant for half the year, is not what is needed. In fact, I would argue for more facilities to be accessible outside of term-time!

  5. Since starting at Imperial only last October, I have found two things. One, that I am always able to buy a sandwich or hot food whenever I might want to on campus, and two, that the Holland Club has provided a fantastic venue to easily mix with fellow PGs and staff. The decent priced drinks, pleasantly shabby decor and friendly atmosphere make it feel like somewhere I’ve come to have a drink for years. It is clear when in there, that this affection for the place is shared by everyone. A few extra drinks to choose from, a dab of paint, and a rethink of the layout are all that is needed to improve an evening there, without compromising the club’s independence and character. Considering the recent move to offer cheap tea, coffee and hot chocolate, it seems that the Holland Club’s management are well equipped to respond to demands being made by those who use it.

    Perhaps in the day bar snacks and coffee could be served, but the idea of having yet another outlet, where all I can buy is the same choice of overpriced sandwiches as anywhere else on campus, is not appealing. In my opinion, the high level of profiteering from staff and student refreshments is what is at ‘saturation point’. I concur with earlier comments, that the SCR could be far more space efficient, and that the need for an actual figure of floor size comparison is needed to support such a claim. We don’t want to be crammed in there against each other but it certainly isn’t well thought out (although saying that, I’ve never had to wait more than a minute or two for a seat). There is also vastly underused space at SAF and several other outlets. Surely delivering a good experience on campus for all staff and students is through there being a range of facilities available across the campus that are considered good, rather than a series of underused clones. It is pointless considering additional facilities and amenities, when at a fraction of the cost, the current ones could be fully optimised.

    How the ethos of the Holland Club might be maintained within any new facilities is not difficult. It is a place that is used and enjoyed almost exactly as it is, for a purpose that is catered for nowhere else on campus.

  6. Really not a fan of this idea at all. When it comes to catering at Imperial, the only shortage of which to speak is of competition and variety. Having independently run food and drink establishments on campus helps to deal with this. Please don’t tip the balance any further the wrong way.

  7. It would be a great shame to change the Holland Club. It’s a fantastic facility for postgraduates and staff. There’s no where else like it where you can go for a drink at the end of the day with your group, form friendships and exchange ideas and meet others who work at the college. It’s also a great place to take visitors – recently a collaborator from industry couldn’t believe it when we told him of the college’s proposal.

    It’s outrageous that catering claim that they are unable to meet demand. Everyday half of the sandwich cabinets are empty by 12:30. If you’ve got unfulfilled demand, then why not restock your shelves throughout the day (like any other retail business) rather than destroy parts of the college loved by staff and students. Changing the Holland Club would be an insult to staff and students – the very people who make Imperial the successful university it is.

  8. When I arrived at Imperial in October, I was gobsmacked by the number of catering outlets everywhere. Initially impressive, I soon learned that they were pretty identical, selling the same things. I have no desire to see more of this. I do use the outlets regularly and have never found it hard to buy lunch. They do often run out of sandwiches but I think restocking shelves woould be a better use of resources than converting the Holland Club to yet another catering outlet, selling the same stuff, running out of the same sandwiches.
    The Eastside and Union bars are both incredibly commercialised, bringing no sense of warmth or cohesion to Imperial. The Holland Club, however, is quite the opposite. It is a welcoming place with character and much warmth with a unique sense of identity, creating a sense of belonging for all who visit it. I cannot see how another commercial cafe will contribute positively to the ethos of Imperial.

  9. The number of eating establishments on the South Kensington Campus is more than enough to cater for the student population! With the exception of Eastide (which has quite frankly declined in terms of quality of food and service) there is very little alternative for staff and PG students to go where there is a relaxed atmosphere, reasonably priced drinks and get service from a bar staff team who are always polite and professional and therefore, make going to the Holland Club an enjoyable experience. I can see absolutely no benefit in turning the Holland Club into yet another venue where the same type of drinks and food will be sold, when we already have several outlets selling the exact same thing!! The Holland Club is an asset to the College. It should not be viewed as a place which has no use and therefore an easy target! I am wholeheartedly in favour that it should remain!!

  10. Firstly, I think the main point is that the Holland Club is currently used by a considerable number of people; if the Holland Club was sat empty every evening, I could see that a review of its function would be sensible. However, the Holland Club is used, and loved, by numerous staff members and postgraduate students, who value the chance to have a venue which is entirely for their own use, and is a relaxed and social environment. The indicators of a successful venue is not flashy lights and modern seating, it is the service provided and the atmosphere which are more important, both of which the Holland Club provides in abundance. I would far rather go for a drink in the Holland Club than to Eastside, where there is not enough seating for customers just wanting to go for a drink, where the atmosphere is limited and which does no longer provides the standard of food and service it did when it first opened.

    My second point is that the reasoning behind the feasibility study seems to be an assumption is that every person who works and studies on campus wants to eat on campus. This is certainly not the case. One of the attractions of the South Kensington campus is that there are various eating establishments nearby, to suit even a student budget. We are not a campus situated in the middle of the countryside with no alternative venues nearby. Imperial College does not therefore need to provide every person on campus with lunch – as a staff member, I often prefer to get away from campus at lunchtime to eat, and having an additional eating outlet on campus would not make me more likely to eat here. Even when I do eat on campus, I have never experienced a lack of food or excessive queues – no more than would be expected anywhere at the peak hour of lunch time. Whilst I recognise that there is of course a need to provide eating establishments on site, I honestly do not see that there is a need for any additional venues.

    I believe the Holland Club is a really important part of the college’s rich heritage and is something that the College should be proud of. Rather than providing another eating establishment, similar to those already on campus, the College should recognise the Holland Club as a valuable asset, which allows staff and postgraduate students their own space to socialise, and which has a unique and much loved identity. I for one am proud to see how both current and past staff and students have rallied together to support Kevin and the Holland Club, demonstrating the high esteem we have for it.

    Many thanks,

  11. The Holland Club combines a unique atmosphere with affordable prices, making it a popular venue with academics and technical staff alike. It stands out admist the numerous expensive and commercially-oriented catering outlets that we see everywhere else on campus. Please keep the Holland Club free.

  12. If you’re a postgrad, postdoc or lecturer on campus then the Holland club already provides the best use of space possible. And that should always be a university’s priority – providing the best experience for their students and staff, not thinking of the next best way to make a cheap buck.

    Hang your heads in shame Imperial College Catering. Get your own house in order before moving in on other peoples.

  13. Quite simply, without the Holland Club, I don’t think I’d have made it through my PhD. It would be a terrible shame to lose such an integral part of the postgraduate student experience.

  14. When I arrived in London as an expatriate, I did not know anyone here either
    personally or professionally. Luckily, my colleagues took me to the
    Holland Club and there, sharing more than lab work, we built up real and
    durable relationships. It was there, waiting at the bar, that I met most
    of my current Londoner friends. It was there, around a drink, that I
    exchanged crazy ideas and started new collaborations.
    It was there, that I simply met new people, from other groups, other
    departments, other fields. People who I would have never known otherwise
    and who today make my life better.The Holland Club gathers people – and
    according to my criteria, it is much more synonymous of well-being at
    Imperial College than any anonymous catering facility.

  15. The Holland Club is an important place for many people. Aside from just helping make Imperial College a nice to place to work, many ideas and new collaborations have come from banter had in the Holland Club. Creative and innovative thinking requires us having informal relaxed spaces like the Holland Club on our campus.

  16. This is just an awful, awful idea. To take something that measn so much to so many people. I dont’ think that a rethink isn required, simply abandonning this farce of an idea is much more desirable. Anything that can be done, will be done to keep this place going!!!

  17. Holland Club is unique to Imperial College and the demand of if far outweigh the demand of yet another catering facility. Please leave Holland Club as it is.

  18. The H-Club, already provides a “high-quality service” and is an established “social space” for a very defined audience and active part of IC’s community. As this is listed as the College’s aim, why try to fix something that ain’t broke?!
    Where else can staff and postgrads go to network, have a meeting, grab some lunch or just socialise with their peers outside of their own departments and work areas? It’s a unique venue, steeped in tradition. Leave our heritage alone.
    Vik Paw, Alumni and former member of staff ICU and Holland Club.

  19. I can just agree with what has been posted here. It would be a great shame if the Holland Club was turned into yet another catering outlet that served the same food as SAF, the library cafe, chemistry cafe etc. I never had to go hungry on campus due to the lack of food outlets, the frustrating thing is that all these outlets serve the same food and offer the atmosphere of a hospital canteen. The Holland Club is the only bar for postgraduate students and staff at Imperial College. It is a sanctuary for many of us after a long day or week in the lab or the office.
    I looked up the numbers and found out that there are approximately 5000 postgrad students and 6000 staff at Imperial, this is a total of 11.000 people, and we have only one bar to go to, and now this is supposed to be turned into another catering outlet for food nobody wants?
    I really hope that the College and the rector do the right thing for the students here and not for catering, so they can make a bit more profit. After all this is a University and not a shopping mall.
    Save the Holland Club!

  20. A re-post that I think summarises the feelings over 70% of the college community, that is the 70% not part of the high command.

    “Let’s put a bit of meat on the story so far. This isn’t simply a catering takeover of the existing space. Commercial (not support, not student, but “Commercial”) Services have commissioned a feasibility study into converting the premises into a 100 cover restaurant, bar, 24 hour coffee shop, internet cafe and TV lounge. The study is costing a not insignificant five figure sum. If it goes ahead they will [urinate] nearly £4 million of taxpayers’ money up the wall. The reasoning behind this: “to enhance the student experience ” especially in relation to postgraduates. They will tell you that focus groups and surveys have asked for this sort of provision and they are responding to demand. Of course most people will respond to leading questions like “do you want a 24 hour cafe” by ticking the yes box while never having the slightest intention of ever wanting a watery latte in South Kensington at 3:30 AM on a Wednesday morning.

    But this is disingenuous to say the least. How would they ever make that sort of money back selling school dinners to students? And they’ve got all the facilities to do this as it is. The MDH (Queen’s Tower Rooms to you) opens for two hours a day 30 weeks a year and stands unused most of the rest of the time. Eastside, the library and the Union sell food outside lunchtime. The Library can open its cafe 24 hours if the demand really is there. The real reason is to provide somewhere to hide all those troublesome, non-profitable staff and students during the conference season, and rake in huge amounts of cash renting out the SCR, JCR and MDH as exhibition space and for feeding expense account delegates. A purely commercial service.”

    Lifted directly from the H-club wall and I couldn’t say it better myself.

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