University releases a request for new dining vendors

Administration sets goal to find new food providers by the beginning of the fall semester

University releases a request for new dining vendors

The One Card & Dining Services office in the Mary Graydon Center. 

The University released a Request For Proposal for new dining providers Friday, effectively opening up bidding for a new vendor, and on Monday announced in an email to students the timeline for the next few months of the process. 

In early March, the Eagle reported that the University planned to open up bidding for a new provider, and although Aramark, the current vendor, will be allowed to bid, a source close to the process said it is unlikely the corporation will be selected. 

The online release of the timeline and vendor requirements comes three days after the RFP was opened to vendors, according to the timeline on the webpage. A RFP is a document that outlines a series of requirements that a company requires all bidders to fulfill, and serves as a way for prospective vendors to understand what’s expected of them should they win the contract.  

“Student representatives have been, and will continue to be, instrumental on the Dining Projects Team and RFP Committee, serving through the summer to help evaluate proposals and choose a vendor,” said Charles Smith, executive director of Auxiliary Services, in an email to students Monday night. 

Primary concerns of the University, according to their announcement, include “excellent quality food,” a wide-ranging series of “national, regional and locally-owned dining options” that appeal to students, and services that cater to a variety of dining restrictions including gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, kosher and halal meals. 

The University also requires that bidders prioritize customer service, with emphasis on hygiene, freshness and a “welcoming environment.” Explicitly stated is the ability to provide hours of operation that match student needs, including late-night service. 

The RFP was drafted by a subcommittee of the larger Dining Project team, which is made up of faculty, staff, and students in an attempt to broadly represent the campus community and various stakeholders. 

According to the timeline, the RFP was issued on April 19, and final proposals are due on May 13. Presentations by bidders will take place the week of May 20, and the beginning of June is the official time slated for a final decision. By the end of July, a new provider should be fully in place, the timeline reads. 

This means that the University will meet its goal of a new provider by the beginning of the fall semester, as Mark Story, previous director of university communications, said in a March interview. 

In an email exchange on April 10 Smith explained that the goals of the RFP were shaped by student responses to surveys conducted by the Residence Hall Association and Student Government. 

“We’ll be updating the campus community regularly on the on-going milestone during the process,” he added. 

Washington College of Law recently switched its provider from Aramark to French vendor Sodexo, resulting in slightly lower costs and higher levels of sustainability, said Robert Campe, the associate dean for finance, administration and strategic planning at Washington College of Law, in a January interview. 

The Eagle previously reported that earlier this year, students spoke out against proposed meal plan changes for the 2019-2020 school year because of increased costs and complaints about poor food quality. Story said a combination of these protests and general “concerns from the AU community,” particularly from students and parents, led the University to seek other food providers. 

“Students and parents have become pretty vocal over the last several months,” Story said in the March interview. “If you’ve seen [President Sylvia Burwell’s] strategic plan, at the heart of that is student retention. The heart of student retention is making sure you have a good experience here, and dining is part of that.” 

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