To acquire wisdom, one must observe

RFP collects community feedback

The Request for Proposals (RFP) is developing and gathering community input as a part of the first two stages of the dining vendor selection process. Unionized employees will retain their jobs, and it is unclear if other hourly workers will keep their jobs as well, according to Ted Mayer, project lead consultant and president of TM Consulting Group LLC.

“Food service companies don’t have this stable of people—it’s not like they bring over a bus load of people and they take over and everyone’s out of a job. They genuinely, and actually I can’t think of a situation where they haven’t, take on the employees,” said Mayer. “There’s a lot of institutional memory, and I think it’s fair to say that the issue that Brandeis has with food service isn’t because of the employees. It has to do with a lot of other variables. The intent of the RFP process to iron out and lose those number of variables to make it as clear as possible what those expectations are.”

According to Mayer, the national chains that are present on campus will most likely carry over to the new vendor, who will either create a new contract or already have an existing contract with the chain. However, some places in Upper Usdan, such as SubConnection, are proprietary to Sodexo and will change with a new vendor. 

Mayer said that the financial and operational sides of the RFP will be separated. The vendors’ compatibility will be considered first, and then once Brandeis has narrowed the options to two to three vendors, they will allow those parties to bid.

Mayer also said that Brandeis is collecting data on the demographics of student diners to express to vendors and bidders that Brandeis is a diverse environment and is making an effort to find out how prospective vendors will manage that.

Answering a question from the audience during the second dining forum on Tuesday, Oct. 29, Mayer spoke about the trade-off between low quality “all-you-can-eat” variety and higher quality food with limited variety. Brandeis has not made a decision even on this dichotomy of dining options, as “it’s all up for grabs,” according to Mayer.

Mayer said that the most common complaints about Sodexo are regarding non-coordinated menus with kosher versus non-kosher sides, low quality and high prices. Brandeis’ goals are to find a vendor that will work to solve these problems as well as a company that will put an emphasis on partnership and transparency. “Contracts that will do well over the long run have a clear, trusting relationship,” Mayer said.

Brandeis has changed food providers rather frequently in the past few decades. According to Mayer, although the upcoming process will result in a cost in transition, Brandeis plans to build this cost into the RFP and amortize it over time. Mayer also mentioned that there have been talks about reinstating Brandeis’ internal dining hall system, which existed before Aramark. However, since the infrastructure no longer exists at Brandeis, it would not be a “prudent undertaking,” Mayer said.

Students can stay updated on the process through the finance and administration website link “News and Events” where they can click on “Dining RFP.” “Brandeis is intent on making this a community-wide process,” Mayer said. After Brandeis narrows down the pool of applicants, the prospective vendors will give community-invited presentations on March 4-5, 2020.

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