Food Fight: One bid to rule them all

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Sodexo and Aramark make final cut for food contract

Veronica Lowe / Illustrator

Veronica Lowe / Illustrator

A 12-year partnership between Chartwells foodservice and Saint Louis University will come to an end this June, as SLU looks towards Aramark or Sodexo to satisfy their future culinary needs. The two remaining companies elbowed out Chartwells and Bon Appétit for the position and just underwent site reviews by SLU’s Food Request for Proposal Evaluation Committee.

Site visits included inspection of both local and non-local campuses that are currently being managed by the prospective vendors. Representatives from various stakeholder groups, including Student Development, Housing and Residence Life, SGA and Business and Finance spoke with the different campus’ current administrators, student leaders and dining staff to gage the levels of satisfaction that each location has with their foodservice providers.

“Overall, the campus visits were see firsthand the condition of the facilities, the food services programs, student engagement programs, variety of the menus, healthy options and which vendors had sustainability programs in place,” stated Evelyn Shields, director of Student Development and Business Administration.

This aspect of the food contract process was reportedly right on schedule and the committee’s next step will look into the specific negotiations with each company. Over the next month, the team will work on finalizing the best offers and deciding on a company recommendation to present to SLU’s executive staff. Financial costs, food quality and variety, work hours and purchasing aspects are a few of the main contract issues that will be negotiated. After awarding a company the position, SLU will begin the transitional process.

“I’d really like to have that done before SLU 101 in June,” stated Kent Porterfield, Vice President of Student Development. “It doesn’t seem like a lot of time but these companies do this a lot so they have a pretty structured plan in place.”

One important aspect of the transitional process will include that of the frontline staff job retention. Both Aramark and Sodexo have expressed agreement in working with Chartwells to interview the current frontline staff and hire most, if not all of their SLU employees.

“These folks, we care about them, they’re part of our Billiken family and we want to make sure that they’re being treated fairly,” stated Porterfield.

Prior to Chartwells, Sodexo was SLU’s foodservice partner for 15 years and is the current food provider at Chaifetz arena. The committee does not expect that this will be a factor in the decision, however, and will be looking at what each company can do for SLU today. Within each company’s bid, the team will specifically be comparing the sustainability practices, healthy options, student appeal and communication, ability to serve on the cutting edge of the industry and the price value.

“We want to make sure that it’s a good price value,” Porterfield said. “So students are getting as much as they can get for a reasonable price. We know that students are cost-conscious.”

Eatery options will also be weighed heavily in the decision, as the committee wants to be sure that students will have dietary choices – both healthy and otherwise. This aspect has been strongly expressed by the student body – one of the stakeholders that the team has consulted throughout the process.

“We want to make a choice that the community feels good about,” said Porterfield.