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The University News

Chartwells beats out rivals, secures food service contract

Goodbye, Sodexho.

Hello, Chartwells.

After less than two months of proposals and negotiations, the new food provider on campus has been decided. Chartwells has agreed to sign a 10-year contract with Saint Louis University. The official change will take place in early June.

“Chartwells has a real commitment to take dining services at SLU to a whole new level,” said Kathy Humphrey, vice president for student development. “They will partner with us as an institution.”

The decision to choose Chartwells came last Friday, after several weeks of intense negotiation, with the three bidders: Chartwells, Sodexho and Aramark.

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Humphrey emphasized that with Chartwells, the University gained a partner, not just a client. “We have found a good partner who will respond to student and institutional needs,” she said.

Mike Rozier, Student Government Association president-elect, said, “Chartwells in my opinion had a better package for students: lower prices in convenience stores and food courts, and excellent student-centered salesmanship, and an excellent philosophy about making changes to their program, which we haven’t seen since I’ve been here.”

According to Chartwells Regional Vice President Ivan Key, SLU was attractive because of its size, volume and progressive nature.

“There’s a reason they call St. Louis the Gateway to the West,” said Stuart Henning, Chartwells regional director. “It’s our gateway to keep going west.”

Chartwells hopes to make SLU its Midwest showcase school, where other universities would visit when negotiating food service contracts with Chartwells. “We will provide SLU all the resources of our organization to make it a show account,”

Henning said. In creating their proposal to SLU, Henning said they took the best ideas from their best schools.

The partnership aspect was also important to Chartwells. “We saw a true desire from the University to improve the food service,” Key said. “That’s neat to see.”

One key goal of Chartwells’ is customer service, said District Manager John Rupert, who will be overseeing the food operation here. He said they will train and teach the staff to provide outstanding service to the SLU community.

While each food service provider was willing to make a strong financial commitment to the renovation of the Busch Memorial Center, Chartwells’ offer truly was a gift with a long-term investment, said Mike Cappel, SGA president and a member of the selection committee.

Humphrey explained that Chartwells’ financial contribution had a “better long-term financial outlook,” but was not the largest amount on face value.

“I was determined not to let the money drive the decision,” Humphrey said. “We have to live with this for 10 years.”

According to Humphrey, each bid included a similar program of food service, but she added, “We chose Chartwells because all the pieces of the proposal worked.”

One of those pieces is the price difference, particularly for meal plans.

“The price will go up; it has to go up to provide the quality of food we want,” Humphrey said.

She noted that the increases would be gradual. Next year’s meal plans will remain as currently priced.

In terms of employment, all hourly employees currently on staff with Sodexho will be considered for hiring by Chartwells, whose Human Resources Department will be interviewing each employee in the next few weeks.

“All employees currently on staff have the opportunity to work with us,” Henning said. “If they’re good at what they’re doing, we’re not going to get rid of them.”

He added, “We do not have busloads of people waiting to come in.”

Compensation and benefits under Chartwells promise to be equal to or greater than Sodexho’s.

As for the management-level employees, their status has yet to be decided.

Chartwells, a member of Compass Group, operates on nearly 300 campuses after entering the U.S. market in 1997.

They recently received food-service contracts at DePaul University and University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Sodexho leaves

Sodexho Resident District Manager Greg Magill was not surprised that the contract negotiations occurred one year prior to Sodexho’s contract end.

Sodexho, which purchased Marriott several years ago, has been on campus for nearly 15 years.

Chartwells will be buying-out Sodexho’s contract for next year, with plans to take control of all dining facilities on campus in early June.

Their role as the current food provider may have hurt their chances for contract renewal. “Any time you’re the incumbent, it’s always more difficult,” Magill said. “The grass is always greener on the other side.”

He assures students and the SLU community that the current service will not suffer.

“We’re going to do as good a job as we can right up to the end,” Magill said.

He noted that they may begin to lose leverage with their hourly employees, who know they will likely be hired by a new company in a month.

He also said many of them may start using their unused sick days, so as to not lose them with the

company switch.

Sodexho has been taking steps to get additional staff to compensate for such losses.

Magill said that the Sodexho managers who can relocate will find employment with Sodexho. The company will help find employment for those managers who cannot relocate.

Overall, the transition during the next month will be “seamless,” according to Magill.

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