Students consulting on food contract

Committee to choose cafeteria supplier when Sodexho agreement expires

A committee will decide the fate of Sodexho at Queen’s.
A committee will decide the fate of Sodexho at Queen’s.

The University’s Sodexho contract expires in 2010, and Residence and Hospitality Services Director Bruce Griffiths is looking for students to help decide who gets the $14-million contract to supply Queen’s cafeterias. The contractor will be responsible for day-to-day cafeteria operations, food outlets on campus and various catering services needed at Queen’s.

Griffiths said the three companies that could handle a contract of this size are Sodexho, Chartwell’s and Aramark.

“My belief is that, corporately, any of the three big contractors could run this account,” Griffiths said. “What I want to hear from them is why I shouldn’t pick the other contractor. What’s your added value? We want a better experience. We want a Queen’s unique solution.”

Griffiths said he’s not comfortable with the traditional way of awarding these contracts.

“You get a few students, drag them around and show them a few different accounts and try to educate them about what is a fairly big business. Then try to make a decision based on what I refer to as the pretty pictures they see.”

Griffiths’ alternative is a committee that will include himself, a representative from the dean of student affairs’ office and two to three students to become involved in the contract review process. The students selected for this committee will have to commit to a 2 1/2-year process that includes touring selected sites in the United States and Canada where the contractors consider themselves to be faring well. The committee will also participate in focus groups and Facebook discussions to get feedback on what students want in terms of food services.

“They would be the group that makes the final recommendation towards what contractor to select,” Griffiths said.

The selection process is set to begin this winter when Griffiths chooses the final committee and the pre-qualification process begins for the contractors this summer.

“[Companies] have to meet safety standards, insurance and other formalities. They have to be a credible company that can handle this level of commitment,” Griffiths said. “The most important thing is who they send here. They need to be able to attract the best people.” Due to the size of the contract up for grabs, Griffiths said, Queen’s expects the company contracted to provide the University with their best service personnel.

“We are a big account and can demand things smaller schools can’t.”

Sodexho Resident District Manager Phil Sparks said he receives both positive and negative feedback from students.

“We have satisfaction surveys online, but we see both ends of the spectrum,” he said. “Some people complain about too much variety and others complain about too little variety, so it’s hard to implement these changes.”

He said the size of Queen’s facilities makes it easier to offer a wide variety of options.

In the recent Globe and Mail University Report Card, the average mark for Queen’s was C or C- in the five food categories.

Although those marks seem low, it puts Queen’s in the top three in three categories and top five in one category.

The committee will look at ways to improve the way Food Services are viewed by students, with the hope of gaining more positive feedback, Griffiths said.

Queen’s hopes to try new things such as creating more outlets on campus similar to successes like the Lazy Scholar, Griffiths said.

“There will be a lot of expectations about what the company we choose will be able to accomplish. Our job is to get the best deal for Queen’s.”

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