The Parliament Kitchen

One of the perks of being a Slovenian MP is also having access to what is popularely known as the “parliament kitchen”. Today a canteen, it was a full-blown restaurant until a couple of years ago, but still retains some of the best cooks and a very experienced chef.

The food in the parliament kitchen (source)

But apart from being good (and I mean really good), the food in there is dirt cheap. And it is precisely that fact which periodically draws cries of outrage by journalists, blogers, Facebook users and other fine people of this country. I mean, they do have a point. Three-course menu for 4 euros? Coffe and a sandwich for 1.20 eiuros (approx.)?

Compare that with some 12+ euros for a two-course quickie in a nearby diner, or 2.20 euros for an espresso and croissant pengovsky pays almost every morning in one of his watering holes and you start thinking someone is charging dumping prices. The usual argument goes along the lines of MPs earning some 3000+ euros monthly for just sitting there and pressing buttons, so why the fuck shouldn’t they pay proper prices for their food? In the eyes of many this is just another example of MPs making their life comfortable whitout giving a pair of dingo’s kindeys about anyone else.

While popular, the reasoning is both wrong and demagogical. Namely, the “parliament kitchen” is not suppose to make profit. It is not a company but a service the institution provides to the people working there. Also, the staff are on the parliament’s payroll and are not employed by the kitchen itself. In short, their salaries are financed by the budget and not by income the kitchen makes. Therefore it is only correct, that meal prices in there are lower, as they only need to cover the actual cost of production, and do not include labour cost nor a profit margin.

In fact… If the prices in the parliament kitchen represent the basic cost of meal production, it is entirely reasonable to ask how big a profit margin bars and restaurants really charge. Take coffee, for example, since prices of a single cup of coffee very wildly in Ljubljana. Naturally, in “normal” bars and restaurants prices include the cost of labour as well. The hourly wage is around four euros, and the lowest price of an espresso is around one euro. Knowing that the production cost of a cup of espresso in the parliament kitchen in half a euro, we can roughly calculate that a waiter has to serve eight espressos every hour to make his or her hourly wage. Anything beyond that goes to the owner. And that’s only selling espressos. If you consider food (normal price 12 euros), the profit margin is even greater, as a watier would have to sell one menu every two hours to make his wage. Anything beyond that again goes to the owner.

So – it’s not that the parliament kitchen is dirt chip. Rather it is the fact that bars and restaurants are charging attrocious prices for product and service that often leave a lot to be desired. And one more thing – contrary to popular belief, the parliament kitchen does not serve only ninety elected representatives of the people. It also feeds almost four hundred parliament employees and most of them don’t make 3000 euros per month. Besides, most MPs don’t eat in there. Not classy enough. They rather go to the nearby Maxim, where their wallets will endure a proper degree of abuse.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

18 thoughts on “The Parliament Kitchen”

  1. The two plates on the pics are only suitable for hardworking foresters or construction workers. I wonder how people continue their work after finishing that hugeee steak.

  2. Does the pm’s diner pay rent? Otherwise the production cost at your typical lj bar might be higher. or no? BTW. How is it in Sl, do pms have their flats payed for by the state, i mean in the case they don’t already live in lj?

  3. It’s also probably cheaper to run than the nearby bars and restaurants because no one shows up once a week to collect security payments, if you know what I mean. 😉

  4. @gandalf: Point. But still, point being that meals in there are cheap not because of dumping, but because there are no other costs. Hence criticism voiced by many is entirely misdirected in this case.

    @lisa: Hehe, so the Montenegrians finally landed in Canada?

  5. Hehe. On this coast no, it’s more a pleasant mixture of helpful Triads or Hell’s Angels that ensure that bars/restaurants/stripjoints run smoothly. Like boyscouts with motorcycles they are. 😀

  6. But labour cost (cooks, waiters…) have to be counted in, otherwise this should be considered as employment benefit and they should pay income tax on it.

  7. @lisa: hehehe :mrgreen:

    @Lure: staff at the kitchen are employees of the parliament and their salaries are paid from the budget of the parliament, not the kitchen’s income.

    @rollo: Only by invitation 😉

  8. @pengovsky: yes, but if the cost of labor (for restaurant cooks…) is not counted in the price of the meal, it means that they (people employed in parliament) get subsidized price from their employer, therefore it is job benefit and should get under income tax.

  9. Dr. fil, could you do a quick resume of the rationale behind the “eating protest”? I don’t much care for facebook, and one has to have an account to see the content of your link.

    I hope it’s not another whine-fest about the fat cats and the privileges they have.

  10. Quote: “Z namenom opozoriti na slabšanje položaja študentov – tudi zaradi podražitev študentske prehrane – Neodvisna študentska mreža vabi vse študente, da se nam v ponedeljek, 12.1.2009 ob 12. uri pridružite na kosilu v DZ RS, ki stane borih 3.3 EUR oz. bi ob subvenciji stalo samo 0.77 EUR in tako postalo najcenejše študentsko kosilo.

    Zbor ob 12.00 pred DZ RS.”

    Gist: Let’s all eat the cheap lunch to draw attention to the deteriorating conditiond for students.

  11. So, basically, it is just a whine-fest. Gawd, why can’t student politics ever make it beyond the most obvious booby traps? Why can’t they realise that there is more to be done than just whining about the most blatantly obvious?

    So much needs to be done, and they harp on the (utterly inconsequential) prices of lunch in the parliament caffeteria? Sheesh.

  12. Agreed.

    The event really was pathetic. Around 100 students came not in protest but in search of a cheap meal. A handful got in while the rest were treated to tea outside, distributed by a couple of young MPs. The ones who made it to the caffeteria for the plat du jour (caneloni or risotto) came out smiling as they paid nothing for the food, but were rather treated to their meals by MPs (SD MPs, it would seem, as SDS immediately stated it could not understand why they dined with SD and not SDS MPs since it was SDS that called for a Parliamentary session on the issue).

    Maslow, you know.

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