Stein menu updated, RFP sent out

January 10, 2020

The Stein menu is being redesigned for this semester and will include vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options as well as more allergen labeling, according to the Chair of Dining Committee and Senator-at-Large Nancy Zhai ’22.

Zhai said that this semester, the Senate Dining Committee’s focus has been on four main pillars: dietary representation, extensive outreach, the Request for Proposals (RFP) and daily operation logistics.

The RFP, the official request for dining vendors to issue proposals to the university for the administration of the dining program, was finalized during the last steering committee meeting in late November and sent out to the vendors who are interested on Dec. 4. Vendors will have until February to send in their proposals. Seven companies have expressed interest so far and they will be able to send in proposals, according to Zhai. The steering committee will then narrow the options down to five or six companies. In March, once there are three or four finalists, there will be another open forum for the community. Members of the community are invited to ask the potential vendors questions. 

Zhai serves on the RFP Steering Committee and has been working with Ted Meyer, project lead consultant and president of TM Consulting Group LLC. She said that she has made an extensive effort to include students in the RFP process and has wanted to hear people’s concerns. 

“What we do is very flexible because we work for students,” Zhai told The Hoot in an interview. “We literally work off of student feedback. We have an annual Sodexo survey that showed a two percent satisfaction increase.”

The Brandeis Labor Coalition (BLC) has vocalized their desire for workers to be retained in the RFP. On Nov. 22, over 20 members of the group went to President Ron Liebowitz’s office to ask that Brandeis guarantee the retention of current dining workers, according to an earlier Hoot article.

“The awarded bidder is expected to make every effort to retain current dining employees, as long as the employees are covered by the union, UNITE HERE Local 26,” said Zhai. Zhai said that jobs cannot be guaranteed for employees that are not a part of the union. However, at the dining forum in October, Mayer said that he couldn’t “think of a situation where they haven’t” taken on most employees that are already employed through the university.

Zhai said that she feels like people knew a lot more about the Dining Committee this year. 

“I’ve learned that dining is more than just food,” said Zhai. “It’s more about building connections with students to hear about the real needs to make tangible improvements.”  

Zhai also said that people complained that the pricing labeling was inconsistent with the actual costs of goods in the C-Store, so she and the Dining Committee worked to improve that this semester. She said that there were also inconsistencies between Einstein’s online menu and what the actual prices were in the campus location. They also organized a training for Einstein workers to “limit the number of wrong orders.”

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