TU Delft satisfied with fully vegetarian CIRFOOD restaurant

The complete vegetarian range has led to a very satisfied customer group at TU Delft

Interview – Andy van den Dobbelsteen is professor of climate design and sustainability at TU Delft. Not directly linked to a catering concept. Nevertheless, he is one of the initiators behind the completely vegetarian restaurant that CIRFOOD has been running on the university campus for half a year. The restaurant has become such a big success that it doesn’t stop at one.

Van den Dobbelsteen has been a vegetarian for years and has always experienced that there was not much to offer at the university. Besides, he always had to specifically ask for it. He realized that for many vegans or people who want to eat halal or kosher, ordering something you like at a university restaurant must be a disaster. At TU Delft’s Faculty of Architecture, where many foreign students are admitted, there was much and often criticism of the offers in the canteen, among other reasons. But that was not the main reason for changing the offer. As a professor of sustainability, Van den Dobbelsteen also wanted to know what the environmental effect was of the food offered: “I wanted to map the CO2 impact of the food offered in TU Delft’s university canteens. It is primarily about measuring what is happening here. I have calculated that the CO2 impact of food for one person in the Netherlands is fifteen hundred kilos per year. If you switch to vegetarian or vegan food, it can already be halved. So changing your eating pattern has a huge impact. After energy, food is one of the biggest CO2 contributors.”

EAT Lancet Diet

At a technical university, where it is all about measuring and knowing, there was an immediate basis for switching to a number of products with a smaller environmental impact. “Because facts can be used to convince these students,” says Van den Dobbelsteen. “The biggest challenge was to offer a good and tasty range, because that is important when you change the range. The starting point for the composition of the dishes at TU Delft will be the EAT-Lancet diet, which means less meat and other animal products and more plant-based.” This menu is based on the healthy and sustainable ability to feed 10 billion people by 2050 and is broadly based on scientific evidence.

Local and animal friendly

Various tests had preceded the transition to a fully vegetarian restaurant at the Department of Architecture. In addition to the desire to increase the vegetarian offer, there were also specific wishes for the offer at the 22 other places where CIRFOOD offers food and drink at the university. For example, in connection with reducing the footprint, TU Delft will work more with local products, and if animal products are offered at all, then as local, organic and animal-friendly as possible. Van den Dobbelsteen: “The supply in the university buildings is a matter for the deans. They ultimately decide what is offered within the faculties, but there is consensus on these principles.”

Freedom of choice

Van den Dobbelsteen greatly appreciates the way in which CIRFOOD has adopted a collaborative attitude throughout the protein transition in TU Delft’s corporate restaurants. “We have all worked hard to achieve this. But CIRFOOD is also a party that can and wants more than good. They have proven this in, for example, the Faculty Club, which already offers a completely vegetarian option. Together we started the discussion and together we found solutions. When we announced last year that the Faculty of Architecture was switching to completely vegetarian food, it led to criticism, primarily outside the university, that it was a restriction of freedom of choice. But we did not have that discussion internally . There’s no question that steps need to be taken on the environment. It’s a pretty rational environment here, so the numbers were compelling.”


In response to the uproar surrounding the vegan canteen, Van den Dobbelsteen and colleagues organized a symposium on the theme of sustainable food supply. “There was broad representation from the food industry and science. It was an open and positive discussion: everyone is looking for a healthy protein transition.” The fact that the range is now completely vegetarian is no longer a discussion among employees and students. Van den Dobbelsteen: “We continuously measure satisfaction with the range in the company’s canteen, and it is increased considerably. We will also take further steps to promote healthy food. Also in price. We will start pilot projects in true pricing, showing what the true price of products is when the environmental impact is taken into account. We will also see what happens if we vary the price, whereby products with lower CO2 emissions are reduced in price and products with higher emissions are more expensive. And we try to approach it all as scientifically as possible.”

CO2 neutral

Ultimately, TU Delft will be CO2-neutral by 2030. Van den Dobbelsteen: “This means we still have seven years to switch. We will do this with all our partners and of course also with CIRFOOD, which also aims to be C02-neutral by 2030. Because you do it together. When switching to a more sustainable offer, we offer rent reductions to be able to complete the transition and to offer the offer at an attractive price. This is especially important for students. For example, we must also take steps towards the other offers in the university restaurants and with the offers in the vending machines. This is only possible with multi-year agreements.”


Cirfood’s origins date back to the late 1950s, when a cooperative restaurant was established in the northern Italian city of Reggio Emilia for employees of companies from the city. In the 1970s, the three cooperatives, all active in catering, merged and CIRFOOD was born. Gradually, the company expanded its activities and strengthened its business model. Over the years the company has grown steadily and in the second half of the 1990s it became the market leader in Italy in school catering. In January 2016, Cirfood in the Netherlands took over the family business Cormet Enjoy the Good Life BV. At that time, Cormet had already been active as a catering company within the educational institutions for over 25 years.

(This article originally appeared in @FoodClicks. Not a subscriber yet? Get it here a subscription)

Source: @FoodClicks

Andy van den Dobbelsteen, who took the initiative together with CIRFOOD

Presentation of the vegetarian offer at TU Delft

Author: Steffen van Beek

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