Aramark food contract expires this summer

Aramark, the campus food service provider, works to make sure students are satisfied with its services. Now it faces even more pressure.

Some student opinions of campus dining have turned sour, and the contract between Aramark and UAA is about to expire.

The university will be taking contract bids from Aramark and other dining contractors for summer 2006 and beyond.

Aramark’s history at UAA started in 1998, under a contract that provides exclusive rights of food services offered on campus.

The exception is Subway, which was at UAA before Aramark signed the contract.

Presently, Aramark gets a percentage of the revenue Subway generates from students’ dining dollars.

Stephen Wadsworth, Aramark’s director of dining services, would like to change that.

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“I would advocate buying Subway out when their contract expires next year,” Wadsworth said. “I would like to see more brands come to campus and work with the university.”

Wadsworth said he thinks the Student Union could be developed more, noting the building sees hundreds of students pass through its doors each day.

More brand-name retail locations, such as Taco Bell, would not render Aramark obsolete because the university still needs one managing entity, which Wadsworth said should be Aramark.

Debra Lovaas, UAA’s director of housing, dining and conference services, said it is not impossible to have multiple restaurants, but it would be too difficult for a small university like UAA.

“The companies may not be willing to come in and sign a contract with you if they don’t think they will be getting enough traffic through their area,” she said.

UAA has 558 guaranteed meal plans, a small number that simply isn’t very attractive to most businesses, Lovaas said.

Students pay $1,550 for the premium-dining plan, which includes nine meals per week and $630 in dining dollars each semester. Restrictions limit meals to dinners and weekend brunches.

Anne Marie Miller, a freshman majoring in hospitality and restaurant management, is not satisfied with the current meal plan.

“I get out of class late, so I can’t even use my meals, and I’m forced to use my dining dollars,” she said.

Kelcie Ralph, an undeclared freshman, is unhappy with the variety of foods to choose from.

“It gets really monotonous eating hamburgers and fries all the time. I feel like it’s probably not the healthiest thing,” Ralph said.

Lovaas acknowledged the room for improvement, but thinks Aramark does a decent job at providing healthy alternatives.

“Dining is a difficult task, and it’s hard to please everybody, but what we want is the best deal that we can get that adequately serves the needs of our students,” she said.

Besides dining options, any food service provider at the university is expected to maintain high health standards and sanitation practices.

In the most recent inspection, Feb. 22, 2005, the UAA Commons scored 88 percent and Lucy Cuddy Hall scored 94 percent. The most serious violation occurred at the Commons, where hot food was being stored below its required temperature, according to the Food Safety and Sanitation Department.

In 2004, one of Aramark’s facilities in Chicago was temporarily shut down for health-code violations, according to an article run by the University of Chicago’s student newspaper. Violations included mouse feces found in the kitchen by the state health inspector.

Gebeyehu Ejigu the vice chancellor of administrative services, said to be cautious when looking at an instance such as the one in Chicago.

“You have to be careful not to jump to conclusions. How good a facility is dependent on the specific management at the location,” he said.

Ejigu said he was generally pleased with Aramark’s services, but there was still room for improvement.