Dubrovnik Cocktails at 35 Kuna?!? Meet Akademis “Academia”

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I had one of the most unusual – and certainly one of the most pleasant – hotel stays of all my time in Croatia down in Dubrovnik last week. When I say hotel, I am not sure if that is the right word, for it was located on a student campus, but with very high-quality service. It was spotlessly clean and – at 300 kuna for my ensuite room – very reasonably priced. 

But that was before I saw the menu. A three-course (and very delicious) meal for just 80 kuna, with cocktails an unbelievable  35 kuna.  Were we really in Dubrovnik, known to be the most expensive city in Croatia?


The place had only recently opened and, as I couldn’t find much information about Akademis  “Academia” online, I decided to share my find on Facebook. 

I was shocked at the response. Locals claiming it was only for students, not for guests. That it was only cheap as all the food was subsidised.


Over the three days I was there, I fell in love with the place (maybe too many of those 35-kuna cocktails…) and the very attentive staff. And the more I spoke to the staff and the more I read the comments online, the more I realised there was a disconnect between the perception of local people and the reality of Akademis “Academia.” I thought it was fabulous, as well as being outstanding value, including free parking. Which is a tough thing to find in Dubrovnik. 

Given the gap in perception and reality, I thought it would be an interesting interview. And so I emailed my questions, which were answered as follows by director Marko Potrebica: 


I don’t think I have ever come across such a fantastic project as Akademis that is so misunderstood by the local population. Can you firstly introduce the project?

First of all, thank you for praising our project. The vast majority of our fellow citizens also support the project, but it’s also true that in these times of crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, some of our fellow citizens who are engaged in tourism have had certain objections to our business story. I’m convinced that this dissatisfaction stems from insufficient information, so, as such, thank you for the opportunity to share our vision. Akademis “Academia” is the first academy in the Republic of Croatia, and it’s located within the Student Dormitory Complex in Dubrovnik. Akademis is a catering facility that works throughout the year and offers accommodation, food and beverage services with the aim of the professional training of our students and those studying tourism and hospitality.

Students in the City of Dubrovnik have been facing the same problem for years – a lack of accommodation. So, they’d mostly be housed in expensive private apartments. At the time of the massive development of tourism in Dubrovnik, it was common for private accommodation owners to cancel their contracts with students before the end of the academic year, as early as May the 1st and not offer them any form of other accommodation before the end of October. The number of incoming students in Dubrovnik has been declining from year to year because of these reasons. The second problem lay with student meals because due to the low price of the student menu (23.10 kuna with VAT) private restaurants didn’t see business interest in offering student meals.


The student dormitory in Dubrovnik was built with the aim of providing quality and affordable student accommodation (850 kuna per month with all utilities included) and meals at a mere 7 kuna, with a state subsidy costing 23.10 kuna with VAT for a complete menu of soups, main dishes, side dishes and desserts.

Our primary goal is to accommodate all students in the City of Dubrovnik who are looking for accommodation. The moment we accommodate all the students who have requested accommodation, the dormitory can start doing commercial work – with free capacities. This is where the story of Akademis and the development and strengthening of the branch of scientific and educational tourism begins with the positioning of Dubrovnik on the international map of cities for the organisation of scientific and educational conferences. In Dubrovnik, the IUC successfully deals with this business only with a much smaller accommodation capacity. Through joint efforts, we believe that Akademis will bring new value to the project of Dubrovnik as an international university centre.

“Academia” offers a top service with the goal of professional training. Although our target group is primarily the academic community, Akademis will also host commercial guests who express interest in coming to our facility. We believe that the provision of commercial services is a realistic example on which students can best learn the business of reception, sales, cuisine, restaurants and the like. The service offered corresponds to the categorisation of 3-star hotels and our leading staff consists mainly of professionals who have gained experience in Dubrovnik’s 5-star hotels. I’m convinced that our students can learn a lot from them. Akademis “Academia” offers double rooms, each of which has a private bathroom, a congress hall, restaurant and catering services, a garage, a gym, a self-service restaurant and smaller reading rooms and classrooms. It’s actually a perfect combination of academic and educational development in synergy with the hospitality industry.


How was it financed, and who is running it?

It’s run by Student Centre Dubrovnik, which is an institution owned by the University of Dubrovnik and operates with the aim of taking care of the student standard (employment, accommodation, food and other activities). The project itself, worth around 220 million kuna in total, was co-financed by the European Union from the EU Structural and Investment Fund in the amount of 150,900 million kuna and the Ministry of Science and Education with 15 million kuna, Dubrovnik-Neretva County and the City of Dubrovnik with 30 million kuna, as well as the University of Dubrovnik and the Dubrovnik Student Centre itself with 20 million kuna.


There are lots of rumors that the prices are so good because everything is subsidised, and the Dubrovnik taxpayer is paying for this. What’s the actual story?

These are false rumors going around from those who, according to the old Croatian custom, criticise things and have no idea what they’re actually talking about. I’m glad that there are criticisms because they’re proof of our quality and confirmation of the vision we had when launching this project. When designing the project, our role models were Western European universities, but also other Croatian universities where commercial business is common.

The Student Centre Dubrovnik doesn’t have a single kuna of direct subsidy for its business.

The state set non-economic meal prices and suggested non-economic accommodation prices. When the income we generate in doing business with students is added up, a serious financial hole in business arises. As our primary goal is to take care of the students, we compensate for the lack of financial resources from student services (employment commission) and commercial work that’s allowed on the basis of the project co-financing agreement by the EU.


The entire business is financed by the Student Centre itself – without subsidies from the City of Dubrovnik or from the state. In short, the City of Dubrovnik has nothing to do with the Student Centre, nor does it manage or subsidise any of our work. So, the story of how Akademis is unfair to competition because “it doesn’t pay taxes, the state pays for their losses” is simply not true.

Akademis operates commercially in accordance with all of the laws of the Republic of Croatia (it’s subject to VAT for commercial operations, etc.) – just like any company and/or entrepreneur in Croatia. In addition, Student Centre Dubrovnik pays its employees exclusively from its own income, as it does with all other costs.


The Student Service offers subsidised meals to students. What’s the situation in Akademis?

The student meals are co-financed in such a way that students pay 7 kuna per menu (which includes a main course, soup, salad and cake), and the Ministry of Science pays the rest of the price, ie 16.10 kuna. In short, the student is the holder of the subsidy, if they don’t consume the meal then we have no subsidy. At this price, it’s clear that in this business segment, we’re realising a loss in business. Akademis doesn’t receive grants from the state or the city. If you look at the history of all restaurants that, in addition to commercial business, were also engaged in feeding students in Dubrovnik, you can find information that all these restaurants very quickly gave up providing student services. The reason? – it’s crystal clear; it just didn’t pay off for them.

For this very reason, Akademis can write a commercial story – we aren’t at the expense of the state and we don’t want to be in a situation in which that’s the case. We simply want to be self-sustaining and offer a top-quality service. An example of this are our head chefs who have worked for many years in the best 5-star hotels in Dubrovnik. We can offer superior services – and most importantly – train new generations to be independent and able to provide superior services too.

Okay, let’s talk food prices. I had two outstanding three-course dinners for 80 kuna. When I posted photos and details on Facebook, people were very skeptical. Is the price really not subsidised, and if not, how do you manage to do it all so cheaply?

Because the quality was outstanding. We’re really glad that you were satisfied with the food and service. The food is really not co-financed. As mentioned above, all commercial work done by Akademis operates under the same conditions as all employers in Croatia. What you ate was a daily offer for our guests who use the accommodation services here. In addition, we offer delivery with the offered dishes of the day (at a cost of 35-50 kuna for the main course), but we also have a menu for our a-la carte restaurant (40-92 kuna per meal).

We’re aware that we aren’t located within the city walls, so we formed our prices according to that, but also according to the offer of competitive restaurants in the city. I’m glad you chose us, but you could eat at other places at similar prices here as well. We want to maintain a high standard of service at affordable prices to become a desirable destination for both local and foreign visitors.


Cocktails in Dubrovnik for 35 kuna?!? Seriously?

Seriously! As an institution, we procure the highest quality ingredients at reasonable prices through public procurement. On one hand, as said above, we’re aware that we aren’t located within the city walls, where the location raises the price. On the other hand, want to be available to the citizens of Dubrovnik and of Croatia. This doesn’t mean that you’ll come to Restaurant & Catering Academia and be able to consume everything at very low prices. If you look at our drink menu, you won’t notice any big differences when compared to other cafes in the area. Our original cocktail, Academia, is our marketing story that serves to attract people to us.

Tell us about your plans and pricing for the summer…

Our first target groups are members of the academic community and the students themselves. We monitor the state of prices on the market and we’ll certainly not get into “price dumping” in our business segment – both in terms of accommodation and food. We always try to offer value for money. Our goal is to promote the City of Dubrovnik, which in addition to natural and cultural beauty, can also be very proud of its hospitality and its long traditions.

You can learn more about Akademis “Academia” on the official Facebook page.

To learn more about the city, visit the TC Dubrovnik in a Page.


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