For students who are not happy with Aramark’s services, there will continue to be at least one on-campus hamlet providing dining alternatives next school year.
Subway’s contract, set to expire this summer, has been extended until June 2007 to coincide with Aramark’s recent contract extension.
A Starbucks location opening this fall in the Social Sciences Building, adjacent to the Consortium Library, and a proposed hotdog cart during the summer, if approved, should also help to diversify on-campus dining options for students.
“At some point, we may look at another use for that space,” Director of Housing, Dining and Conference Services Debra Lovaas said of Subway’s Student Union location. “But since we extended the Aramark contract, it just made sense to extend the Subway contract.”
Lovaas said an additional year will give dining services an opportunity to evaluate the best way to use the space where Subway currently resides, whether it be awarding Subway another contract or giving Aramark the reigns on the space.
“Normally, you have (contractors running the different venues), because it just allows for more efficient management of all of your food services,” said Bill Spindle, director of business services. “We want to have the same service that we’ve gotten when we had (Subway) separate, and we want to make sure that the pricing structure stays the same or better, and normally we have more leverage if we have it all under one roof.”
Aramark’s contract includes an exclusivity clause, which prohibits other vendors from operating on campus. Subway is the exception to this because it was in the Student Union before Aramark signed its contract.
“I know they want us out-I mean the guy from Aramark has said it before,” said Subway’s store manager, Matt Kozlowski. “I know that they were trying to get it down to just one food service, but we want to be here. We were trying really hard to get the contract resigned.”
Aramark could also prevent a student entrepreneur’s proposed business from being established on campus. Joseph Winters said he wants to open a hotdog cart on campus this summer to give students cheap alternatives to Aramark’s services, and is working with student government to get the support he thinks he will need to get his business approved.
“I know that I can provide a much needed service to my fellow students, while showing that our great university helps support their students,” Winters wrote in a letter to The Northern Light.
Anthony Rivas, USUAA’s president, said he supports the proposal because Winters is a student in the culinary arts program who is going to offer students a cheap and easy alternative to Aramark’s food during the summer. There are not many options for dining on campus during the summer, he said, and therefore Aramark should be able to shoulder the slight loss in revenue posed by Winters.
“I told him if we get too much flak from the administration, then I’ll step in and lay down the law,” he said. “Not only do I love hotdogs, but students love hotdogs and the American people love hotdogs.”
Rivas said he is pushing for a USUAA resolution, which he wants to be put to vote April 7, in support of the cart so Winters will be able to show Aramark that the students are in support of more options for dining on campus.
“I think they should let him do it because they really have nothing to loose. He’s not really going to be pulling away from anybody else’s business,” Rivas said. “If he was in front of Cuddy Center, I could see where that could be an issue, but I don’t think we’ll have any problems.”
But Aramark’s director of Seawolf dining services, Stephen Wadsworth, expressed hesitation about the plan, saying the company has a contract with the university and would probably want to offer the students any food services itself.
“I’ve really got kind of mixed emotions about it,” Wadsworth said. “That’s something really that would have to be discussed with the people that administer the contract – it would be, really, kind of in violation of the contract.”
Wadsworth said he hadn’t yet heard the details of the proposal, which is not a formal one at this point, and would have to learn more about the details of the venture before making a decision.
But the decision to allow other vendors is Aramark’s, Spindle said, as in the case of the coffee shop in University Center, which Aramark turned over to the UAA Bookstore after deciding not to manage it.
“If we, the university, thought it was something we really wanted to do, then we would sit down and negotiate with Aramark,” Spindle said. “If they thought it was going to take away from something that they were offering, then we would have to negotiate something if we really wanted to have it.”
He said the arrangement that will allow a Starbucks to open on campus is the ideal situation for the university, because Aramark will run it-allowing the university to deal with only one entity for its dining needs. Aramark will run the Starbucks because of a national contract between the companies, meaning Aramark will take in a portion of the venue’s profits, but the store will still offer the same products that other Starbucks locations do.
Aramark’s contract, which is now set to expire in June 2007, was originally signed in 1998. Some students have since had various issues with the contractor, including meal costs, variety of food offered and its hours of operation. Spindle said Aramark has subsequently increased the number of hours its services are available because of students’ desires.
Aramark is also in the process of conducting a poll on student opinion to see what it can do to better accommodate students’ needs, Wadsworth said. The poll’s results are expected in the next several weeks.
One popular complaint from students, such as Vincent Boucher, a senior in the civil engineering program, has been that students living in residence halls have to purchase a meal plan, whether they intend to use it or not, and the meals they get with the plans are lost if they are not used.
“It could be good if the meals built up,” rather than lost if not used each week, Boucher said.
Boucher said he thought the plan would be better if students could use their meals everywhere on campus and whenever they wanted, but he said he is generally pleased with the quality of food on campus.
“(The meal plans) are designed for (students) to use their meals up,” Spindle said. “The problem is the contractor has to cook these meals, so if nobody eats them, they’re left with a bunch of food. So, you have to have some incentive for the students to eat up their meals.”