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MAD about the Menu

Benjamin Reedman digs in to the detail of why you shouldn't invest in the MAD catering scheme.

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As many of you will now be making your final preparations for your first year at University some of you may be considering whether the MAD catering scheme on-campus is a worthy investment. Depending on what college and/or block you will be residing in, catering might be attached to your accommodation offer. However, in case you are living in self-catering accommodation let me help you save your money, and perhaps your taste-buds, by telling you why the MAD is a poor investment.

Despite the hype in their adverts about average savings of "12% per meal" it's actually relatively expensive. The mini-MAD offers you 5 dinners a week for a 10 week term which works out to 50 dinners. They price this service at £299. That's £5.98 per meal! Unless your alternate plan is to eat rump steak or dine out every evening this is hardly a bargain. In fact, if you wanted to you could have a considerable amount of the main menu items at various Chinese, Indian, Italian etc take-aways littered throughout York with that money.

Portions are small and badly balanced. I often left the cafeteria still hungry after having scraped my plates clean. The meals are often poorly balanced, at times featuring a sickly abundance of cheap carbs like pasta or french fries flanked with ridiculously small portions of meats in one form or another.

The food itself is average to sub-par. Their adverts claim that most of their dishes are made with "fresh ingredients". For the most part this is probably fairly accurate, although I am comfortable with my assertion that often some of the meals being offered were reheated leftovers from a few days ago. They also claim to have a three weekly rotating menu cycle. Although the combinations of meals being offered may be rotated that often you'll see the same meals many times during this cycle.

There's little point in buying your meals in advance other than the convenience of not having to bring cash. One would have thought that buying 50 meals in advance would give you a discount, however, I noticed when I occasionally brought friends with me (who hadn't invested in the scheme) that they paid as much as I did for individual meals.

Furthermore, buying that many meals in the future is a commitment that doesn't take into account that you may occasionally miss the serving hours or feel like dining elsewhere on a particular evening. And, as there are no refunds for lost meals, that's throwing money down the drain.

If you have the option, the logical choice is to buy individual meals at the cafeteria. That way you can try their food when it is convenient and choose to dine elsewhere when you are so inclined.

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