Interview FC Groningen

FC Groningen has taken a prominent position by aiming to make a difference not only on the field but also beyond. The club is known for its dedication to sustainability initiatives, both inside and around the stadium. In a conversation with Remko Fuchs, catering manager at FC Groningen, we learn more about the club's efforts in sustainability, the preparations being made for the upcoming SUP measures, the biggest challenges in the catering industry, and the importance of branding and communication with supporters.

FC Groningen continues sustainable course with green initiatives

Sustainable entrepreneurship is receiving more attention from companies and other organizations, and FC Groningen is no exception. With a roof full of solar panels and collaboration with Energy Valley, FC Groningen has become the greenest football club in the Netherlands. "We aim to conduct our business in a sustainable manner, using all the means we have. For example, we don't always turn on all the lights and don't always heat everywhere," emphasizes Fuchs. From the belief that everyone has a role to play, the catering activities are not overlooked either. The stadium generates significant amounts of waste during matches, which is why the club has been using more sustainable disposables for some time now. "You have to do something with all that waste. You can't give people the same cup twice. We now use your disposables, where everything is made of cardboard and fully recyclable, except for a thin plastic coating in the coffee cup. We try to collect everything separately wherever we can."

Starting from January 1, 2024, the rules for using disposable cups and containers for on-site consumption will change. FC Groningen also faces the choice of switching to reusable alternatives, plastic-free packaging, or high-quality recyclable packaging. "Next year, we will start using hard cups, which are reusable cups. After use, all cups are collected and taken to the supplier, who washes them for us. It's either this or having to separately collect all the plastic, which you just don't want to do."

Interview FC Groningen

An efficient approach during peak times

One of the biggest challenges for fans has long been the stadium's catering services. Long queues and the mediocre quality of food were common complaints. Since Fuchs joined the club, he sees service speed as the biggest challenge. Fuchs adds: "The biggest challenge is actually how do we ensure that our fans get their drinks and food faster and that the perception of us as a service-providing organization changes."

To address this challenge, Fuchs has implemented a simple but effective measure. By limiting the menu and reducing choices, the staff can work faster and serve more fans with food and drinks. Fuchs explains: "It has meant, among other things, that I took a very criticized step by removing french fries during halftime. French fries require a lot of steps, and we don't have unlimited resources to prepare everything."

Fuchs looks back positively on this decision and notes that the perception of the catering services has significantly improved. 'The image of the catering has done a 180-degree turn,' he says contentedly. "There are still people who feel they have to wait too long, but I hear a lot more positive feedback."

In addition, Fuchs introduced special drink containers on the North Stand side, where only beer is available. This measure was also taken to further increase service speed. Remko adds: "In the last few games we played, we sold 4,500 half-liter drinks there in two hours. It just goes to show that you can achieve incredible speed in service delivery."

FC Groningen Disposables

Food waste during suspended matches

The issue of food waste is widespread in our society, where simply too much good food is discarded. FC Groningen does everything in its power to minimize food waste. However, how do you deal with it when a match is unexpectedly suspended?

It's a challenge that Fuchs faced during the last games played with an audience. During the match against NEC on April 22, everyone was confronted with an unexpected situation when a boy threw a beer cup right at the assistant referee's heel. Fuchs recounts, "You still try to sell some items, but we already knew that the match would be suspended. We are familiar with the rules; if he gets hit, the match is stopped. So, I immediately told them not to make anything more." Unfortunately, this resulted in having to discard products. Fuchs emphasizes his dissatisfaction, saying, "That really bothers me. Apart from the fact that waste costs money, you just don't want it."

Prior to the match against Ajax on May 14, actions were already announced, and it was also clear to FC Groningen that the match wouldn't last long. "There were already rumors that attempts would be made to suspend the match, so we had already taken that into account in the units by not setting up too much." Before the start of the match, supporters expressed their initial frustrations through banners, followed by the lighting of smoke bombs during the match. In the ninth minute, the referee decided to definitively suspend the match.

FC Groningen Disposables

FC Groningen strengthens brand identity with customized disposables

What advice would he give to organizations and companies looking to invest in sustainability? "Keep it simple, but do it well. Involve people in your story, because then you've already won half the battle. Whether you're serving fries, pouring a drink, or doing something big, if you involve people in your story, they will support it." At FC Groningen, this is reflected in their desire to showcase the pride of the supporters, which they achieve with personalized disposables. "I'm sure that all the people who come here are from the area, from Groningen or Drenthe. They are proud of where they come from and proud of the club. That pride should also be reflected in everything you do. That's why we consciously choose this design and work with TakeAware, because I believe we should show that we are proud of who we are and what we do."

Supporter organizations, with whom Fuchs has close contact, respond positively to this change. "The printed disposables are highly appreciated for their appearance, which perfectly aligns with what the club stands for," says Fuchs. "The bright green design and the beautiful logo make the branding much more cohesive than it used to be in the past."

"We actually need another season, where we can celebrate more successes on the football field. Then everything will stand out even more." It's no secret that in the last weeks of the season, the focus was primarily on disappointing results that resulted in relegation. But with the first few wins of the preseason, it's now time to look to the future with fresh optimism. 'We're getting back into the mood to bring fun things."

Pride of the North

Would you like to learn more about the vision and ambitions of FC Groningen? Visit the official website and discover how this club strives for success on and off the pitch.

FC Groningen