Univ. hears presentations from prospective dining providers

Univ. hears presentations from prospective dining providers

The university is currently in the process of selecting a new dining contractor, with the university’s current contract with Sodexo ending this June. As part of the process for responding to Brandeis’ Request for Proposals (RFP), each of the candidates were given the opportunity to pitch their dining services and take questions from the campus community. The four presenters were Sodexo Group, Bon Appetit Management Company, Harvest Table Culinary Group and Chartwells. 

Sodexo Group

Sodexo Group made its bid presentation on Wednesday, March 4 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The presenters had a selection of foods for students to choose from, including crabless crab cakes, bagels and brownies. 

Outside of the function hall where the presentation was being held, there was a sign with a quote from UNITE HERE local 26, the union of the current workers at the university, which endorsed Sodexo’s bid to continue being the dining service for the university. The union sign said Sodexo provides a respectful environment, has open communication and has an approachable management team.

Sodexo’s representatives took time for self-reflection in their presentation: they noted the momentum they’ve made on campus and the unique position it places them in relative to their competitors. The momentum that Sodexo has is likely to continue, according to their presentation, whereas other vendors would not have any momentum as they transition into the university. 

The areas of opportunity that Sodexo wants to focus on include diversity of food choices, partnership communication and community engagement. They’ve also planned to make changes based on feedback from students, including changes to hours of operation, new food offers, a plant-powered launch and more promotions and events. 

Sodexo has planned to align themselves with the values of the university; according to their presentation, they want to undergo a sustainable journey on campus. In order to become more sustainable, they plan to serve more sustainable food, eliminate waste and solve food insecurity. The dining provider plans to incorporate the Future 50 Foods, a list of foods composed by Knorr and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) meant to improve health and benefit the environment through diversified dining systems, according to their report.  

In their plan for the university, Sodexo has planned around President Liebowitz’s Framework for the Future Plan which was recently approved by the Board of Trustees. If they were to win the bid they would further connect with the community, provide authentic and diverse foods, add additional meal plans and renovate food spaces, according to their presentation. Usdan would undergo a remodel to include more food places including Lemon Grass Kitchen, Veggie Grill, The Farmhouse, Mein Bowl and Amelia’s Taqueria, while also keeping current venues that are currently in Usdan like Louis’ Deli and Dunkin’. 

Bon Appetit Management Company

Bon Appetit Management Company presented on Wednesday, March 5 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. They served various baked desserts and hors d’oeuvres to those in attendance. On its website, Bon Appetit describes itself as “an on-site restaurant company offering full food-service management to corporations, universities, museums and specialty venues,” which currently operates in over 1,000 locations. They say that they believe in “[creating] food that is alive with flavor and nutrition, prepared from scratch using authentic ingredients.” 

The presentation focused on the alleged nutritional value of the food which Bon Appetit would provide, and the methods of sourcing used by Bon Appetit. According to a pamphlet distributed at the event, the company would use “regional fresh ingredients” and base its meals on “fresh produce, whole grains and lean and/or plant-based proteins.” The pamphlet adds that these ingredients would be “sourced in a socially responsible manner,” and that there would be “plentiful” vegetarian options.

Bon Appetit also has plans to change the dining options available on campus. According to the pamphlet, both Starbucks, the Einstein Brothers’ Bagels, the C-Store, Louis’ Deli and the Dunkin’ Donuts would remain unchanged. The Stein, Sherman Dining Hall and Lower Usdan Dining Hall would all have new menus. In Upper Usdan, the pamphlet advertises several new restaurants: a “Chobani Cafe, Sushi and Bowls, GO! and CommonWealth Kitchen.”

The Hoot asked Bon Appetit Regional President Michael Bauccio, Regional Vice President Elaine Smart and District Manager David Connolly for further comment, however they declined to provide any. Bauccio cited “respect for the process and the university” as his reason for declining.

Harvest Table Culinary Group

The Harvest Table Culinary Group presented on Thursday, March 5 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. They provided students with samples of trail mix served at other campuses, as well as an all-natural soup mix. A particular focus of their food choices is their own production of pickled vegetables, which students were able to sample. 

Harvest Table focuses on five main premises: they are chef-driven, serve locally sourced food, are hospitable toward the students, focus on the wellness of the students and emphasize collaboration. Mary Thornton, the founder and president of Harvest Table, told the audience that they create a personalized approach for every school. In the particular case of Brandeis their focus is creating food that is healthier and making sure that their operations are sustainable. Part of that plan would be to expand the available vegetarian, vegan and allergen-free options. 

A part of Harvest Table’s plans for Brandeis is expanding some of the dining locations, which are often crowded during popular dining times. Another change would be that the Hoot Market (C-Store) would operate 24/7. They also would like to create a stronger connection between the community and their dining experience by having members of the Brandeis community visit the farms where the food is grown. Harvest Table also plans on improving some of the other dining locations on campus, while keeping those that students are satisfied with. According to the presentation, Harvest Table has no prior experience providing kosher food. 

Chartwells Food Service

Chartwells Food Service presented on Thursday, March 5 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. It currently serves food on 300 campuses across the United States and has a 98 percent retention rate. They served the students with new food options that they would see in the dining halls if Chartwells was chosen, particularly vegetarian and vegan options. According to their website, they are “re-inventing the on-campus dining experience. We are challenging the norm and setting new standards by investing in high-tech, food-infused social spaces that bring people together to promote meaningful relationships and interactions.”

They also use a specialized approach for every campus. Their goal for Brandeis specifically is to increase the amount of sustainability in dining, and to increase the variety of food that Brandeis students are exposed to while maintaining a high standard of food quality. If selected, they would like to change the dining experience for Brandeis students by introducing them to new foods and food combinations, which will also allow more students to have a taste of home at Brandeis. 

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