New food supplier served up

Vending and food-service company Aramark has been awarded the dining services contract for USF.

The Philadelphia-based company, awarded the contract following a lengthy evaluation process, will begin providing catering services in August. Aramark will replace existing catering outfit Sodexho, whose bid proposal was also considered but ultimately rejected. The contract is estimated to be worth $14 million to USF over five years in the form of capital investments in on-campus facilities and rent.

The contract, which will run for five years, with an option for a further five years, will see Aramark provide residential catering, the running of on-campus and satellite retail outlets and all campus catering for the Tampa campus. The selection of Aramark is made in spite of recent bad publicity that has seen the state of Florida assess $110,000 in fines against Aramark for lapses in the catering provided to inmates in 126 of Florida’s 133 corrections facilities.

According to Jeff Mack, director of auxiliary services, Aramark was asked last week to respond to a recent report in the St. Petersburg Times detailing instances of extreme cost-cutting giving rise to concerns of inmate malcontent.

“With their response, they reassured all the concerns raised in the article,” said Mack. “We’re very confident that they will be able to provide the service that we expect and exceed expectations.”

Mack said the problems Aramark was having with its custodial catering did not relate to campus dining services.

“(The reports) do not pertain to the college food service division of the company,” he said. “You can’t really compare the prison food division to the college food division.”

“They’re disappointed the university hasn’t made (Sodexho’s proposal) their choice,” he said. “They have been great partners. They have been on our campus since the early ’70s. It’s strictly a business situation.”

The selection of Aramark concludes a long-running evaluation process involving auxiliary services, faculty and students, Mack said. Using input from focus groups and Internet surveys, a document detailing student priorities for catering was prepared and sent to potential bidders in mid-February. Following the May 2 deadline for bidders’ proposals, an evaluation committee comprised of students, faculty and staff was formed. The committee received presentations from the bidding companies and, in the case of Aramark, surveyed other universities where Aramark already provide catering. The committee’s final recommendation of Aramark was communicated to Carl Carlucci, executive vice president for confirmation. According to Mack, only Aramark and Sodexho were in the running.

“It was an open and public competitive proposal process. We had two outstanding proposals, based on the evaluation process, the evaluation committee recommended Aramark’s proposal as being a better proposal,” said Mack.

The evaluation committee considered five criteria: experience, staffing, dining programs, marketing and financial commitment.

A group will be formed to monitor the service being provided by Aramark and to consider various items in Aramark’s proposal. One of the ideas being considered is a sports bar and grill.

“One of the priorities we asked for was to consider brand concepts for the Marshall Center, including a sports grill,” Mack said. “A monitoring group will decide which of the ideas that were proposed we would go ahead with. The sports grill idea will be looked at very closely.”