Sodexo and the university made a “joint decision” to terminate their existing contract, according to Andy Allen, general manager for Sodexo at Brandeis. Now, the Request For Proposals (RFP) committee is asking multiple vendors, including Sodexo, to issue proposals and is gathering input from different community members around campus. These factors will be weighed against which vendor bids the lowest, according to Nancy Zhai ’22.
“A lot of factors will be considered when choosing a vendor other than the financial side: students’ dietary representation, accessibility, the vendor’s HR (on how to handle difficult situations: how to accommodate students with mobility needs) and core values and whether they align with Brandeis core values,” Zhai wrote in a message to The Brandeis Hoot. “As we discussed during committee meeting, it is extremely important to distinguish what the vendor is responsible for versus what Brandeis is responsible for, drawing that line clearly, so it’s easier to hold both parties accountable, and they can work with each other more efficiently to serve what’s best for students.”
Zhai said that it’s crucial that she “prioritizes issues” that will affect the largest amount of students and could have “serious consequences” if they aren’t considered.
Sodexo breached their contract by mislabeling food allergens, according to Gino Galutera, managing director of campus card and auxiliary services.
“I am tapped to serve on the RFP Steering Committee alongside multiple dining administrators, so I will do everything I can to make sure that the most important issues will be factored into consideration,” said Zhai. “For example, ingredient mislabeling has been a recurring issue (especially for students with dietary restrictions), so our priority must be to hold the prospective contractors and vendors accountable in ensuring food security and adhering to the dining protocols.”
“For example, ingredient mislabeling issues have serious consequences that affects students’ safety. This should be prioritized over, say, expanding the non-allergen-free food options.”
Allen said in an email that the mutual decision to terminate the vendor and university’s contract in June 2020 came after both parties determined that they should move through the RFP process.
“It was clear to both parties that in order to make the necessary changes to enhance student satisfaction, address the mandatory meal plan challenges for students with apartments, and reinvent what food on campus will look like through the lens of President Liebowitz’s Framework for Our Future, all parties must start anew. A fair process to determine the cost of the new dining program should include opportunities for other dining vendors to compete to provide for the best program for the community. I can speak for my entire team by saying that we are excited to see what the community comes up with for priorities for dining so we have the opportunity to enhance the experience for the campus.”
Galutera said that the main sentiment from students that has resonated with him has been the concern for the workers that will be affected.
“It is good to see because members of the community, including myself, have formed bonds and relationships with our front line staff,” said Galutera. “Most likely, the front line staff will likely stay because they are Union employees. The Union contract is negotiated separately from the overall dining contract.”
While unionized, front-line employees’ jobs will be protected, it is unclear if management will keep their jobs.
“Union workers are pretty much set,” said a catering supervisor who works at Brandeis. He or she has asked that his or her name not be printed amid contract renegotiations. “There have been Union workers here for over thirty years. Sodexo adopted the Union workers that were here. It was the same thing with the vendor that was here before, Aramark.”
The source said that he or she doesn’t know whether or not he or she will keep his or her job if a new vendor comes to Brandeis, but that it might depend on whether or not the vendor brings employees to Brandeis from the vendor’s previous account. He or she said that many of Brandeis’ current supervisors were ones that Sodexo brought from other companies. Sodexo is reapplying, according to the source, and he or she hopes that Sodexo remains at Brandeis. This employee has been employed through Sodexo for multiple years and has worked at other locations, and he or she said that the Brandeis location is one of the best accounts that he or she has seen.
“This seems to be one of the most well put together Sodexo accounts that they have. Everybody is on point; there’s no loopholes; everyone is organized.”
The source also said that “every contender in the state is considering a bid.” He or she listed Sage, Aramark, Sodexo, FLIK and Rebecca’s Cafe as possible vendors.