Contract deadline approaches

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Saint Louis University looks to have an eventful semester as it finds the deadline for choosing a future food provider rapidly approaching. Hoping to make a final decision by March or April, the university will spend the remainder of this month receiving presentations from the four companies bidding on the contract.

The four bidders, Chartwells, Bon Appétit, Aramark and Sodexo, will pitch their presentations to the Food Request for Proposal Evaluation Committee by Jan. 23. The committee is comprised of many stakeholders at the university, including representatives from SLU’s Facilities and Sustainability departments, SGA, academic departments such as the law school and several others. These representatives will evaluate each presentation, reporting on the pros and cons that each food vendor offers.

“We will hear the strong points of each vendor presentation from the committee, and then the next step is to go visit some of the sites of the vendors,” stated Evelyn Shields, Student Development Director of Business and Auxiliary Services. “We plan to narrow it down to our top two vendors sometime around March.”

SLU has previously hired both Sodexo and Chartwells. Chartwells won their current contract in 2002 after Sodexo had spent nearly 15 years on campus. Aramark, on the other hand, has competed in the past for the contract but has yet to receive it, while Bon Appétit brings a new name to the table.

“We’re looking for a vendor who is committed to providing the best level of service possible to our students, faculty and staff,” said Shields.

After narrowing the list down, SLU’s executive staff, who are the final decision-makers on the matter, will then complete their financial analysis and proposal evaluations and will make a recommendation for awarding the contract come March or April. However, the executive staff assures that others’ opinions, especially those of the students, are being considered throughout this process.

“This process started somewhere back in January of 2012, and we’ve had SGA involved in all phases of the project,” said Shields. “Students are heavily involved in the decision-making process.”

This includes a student-survey that was sent out last year concerning food preferences or concerns of the student body, as well as any other issues that have been brought to SGA’s attention.

“Students have voiced many concerns about what will happen to front-line staff should the contract be awarded to another vendor,” said SGA President Vidur Sharma. “There is a significant affinity between the front-line staff and students. We intend to ask each vendor about its plan for retaining current front-line staff during the vendor presentations.”

Shields commented that, at this point, all four potential vendors have committed to the idea of interviewing and employing the current SLU food staff. Each company is also submitting a management and associate staffing plan to the committee.

As Chartwells’ current food contract is set to expire in June, any future transitional changes that might take place would not begin until the end of the semester. Once the decision is in effect, the future food provider would inhabit SLU’s campus for a comfortable minimum of five years and a maximum of ten.

“The quality of the bids by the four vendors is very high,” Sharma assured. “We look forward to interviewing all four vendors in the next two weeks and advocating for affordable, nutritional and diverse food options on campus.”