A simple termination of contract letter, notifying a pastry chef that he couldn’t sell his delicacies to high-school students anymore, may lead to a general debate about using more local vendors in schools.
For the past two decades, the bakery Thinnes has been offering their pastries and sandwiches to the students of the Lycée d’Echternach in the schoolyard during the morning break. However, on 11 May, the owner of the bakery, Claude Thinnes, received a letter from the director of the lycée saying that his services would no longer be required.
The government’s canteen provider, Restopolis, would have the exclusive right to sell pastries from 15 May onwards, the school said. Thinnes could not believe his eyes. He had had an excellent relationship with past and current students and was appalled at the short notice.
He wrote a letter to the director, Henri Trauffler, in which he wanted to know whether he stood behind the decision, which Thinnes suspected came from the ministry of education. The pastry chef was so unnerved that he distributed copies of the notification letter at the school break the next day.
Thinnes said that neither the students nor the teachers were aware of the change. A wave of outrage swept over the school courtyard and even reached the parents’ association and the alumni network. A member of the student committee put a picture of the director’s letter on Facebook, and it was commented on and shared hundreds of times. A petition to allow Thinnes to keep selling his pastries in the schoolyard was started. Students started to boycott the Restopolis canteen.
Trauffler explained that the licence had been given to Thinnes because Restopolis had been unable to serve all the 1,400 students during the 15-minute break. Now, however, Restopolis was able to open two more selling points, and therefore there was no need for the baker to come to the schoolyard anymore.
The story became not only about one baker selling pastries to students, but about smaller local shops being driven out of business by bigger, more powerful entities. The fact that Restopolis is government-owned probably made it worse. The ball was rolling and the story had gained considerable momentum. Many were mourning the loss of a tradition (bakers come to many high schools during school breaks).
But Restopolis did not want to be the bad guy in all of this. It published a correction on Facebook, stating that it had been selling pastries in the cafeteria of the lycée for years, that Restopolis was not responsible for the decision and that it was wrong to state that the students had been boycotting the canteen--there had been a medium loss of revenue only on one single day.
Thinnes can apparently continue to sell his pastries to the students. According to the school’s director, the ministry of education considers the question of using local vendors a wider matter which needs to be addressed.