The university’s dining contract with Sodexo, a food and facilities management company, is set to expire in July 2022 and has begun the selection process for a new vendor. The contract with Sodexo was set to end in 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the contract was extended an additional two years, according to a previous Brandeis Hoot article.
The university is hearing the initial bidder presentations for multiple food service operators including: Harvest Table, Nexdine, Sodexo Group, AVI Foodsystems and Bon Appetit. Harvest Table, Sodexo and Bon Appetit all presented back in 2020 for the dining contract bid before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Hoot article. Chartwells also presented back in 2020 but did not return for the bidder presentations in 2022.
Presentations were held in-person, with a virtual option available for community members to attend via Zoom, according to an email sent by Lois Stanley, Vice President for Campus Planning and Operations, to community members on Feb. 27. The five dining vendors presented in Sherman Function Hall and all community members were encouraged to attend, according to Stanley. At the in-person presentations, the dining vendors provided samples of their food for community members to test out. The presentations also offered a Q&A session for community members to ask questions.
After this round of presentations, community members are asked to fill out a feedback form with their opinions on each of the presentations. The finalist will then be asked to present again in Mid-march to the Brandeis community, according to a timeline on the university’s Dining Services Request for Proposals (RFP) page. The letter of intent, which awards the contract to the next dining company, is intended to be released by late March, according to the timeline. Contract negotiation begins in early April with the contract being signed in early June. The new contract is set to commence July 1., according to the page.
The Harvest Table Culinary Group presented on Feb. 28 from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. The pillars of Harvest Table are they are authentic, collaborative and personalized, according to their resume. During their presentation, the company addressed how they plan to use the university’s Framework for the Future as a guide. Two pillars of the framework that Harvest Table plans to tackle are connectivity, both vertical and horizontally, and enhancing the student experience. The student experience is not just comprised of students but the greater Brandeis and Waltham communities, according to the company presentation.
Harvest Table plans to also take care of their service workers, including members of the dining staff who are already on campus. The group also spoke on how they take care of their workers who produce the food they serve.
The control of dining service is being put in the hands of students with Harvest Table, which is not the traditional way of running a dining company, according to the presentation. The group advertised that their model of dining is “for students, by students.”
Harvest Table works to create a “food story,” meaning that each community member will be working towards changing the food system alongside the Harvest Group employees. The current food system is broken, according to the Harvest Table representatives. It is broken because there is a disproportionate amount of people who are without food, nearly 30 percent of the food we produce is thrown away, according to the presenters. This indicates a problem with consumption and distribution rather than with production and this is something they seek to change. The company prides itself on food service done differently, according to their resume.
Harvest Table is currently partnered with many universities including University of Rochester, Elon University and High Point University, according to their resume. The company advertises itself as approachable and will listen to the needs and wants of the community, according to their resume.
Nexdine Hospitality presented on Feb. 28 from 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. David Lanci, founder and CEO of Nexdine, spoke at the presentation on behalf of his company. According to Lanci, Nexdine offers a “holistic customized approach to dining, hospitality and wellness service management.”
Lanci spoke of the inspiration for his company and career in hospitality coming from his upbringing and family where, “every time we ate it was an event,” said Lanci. The company has been ranked in food management Top 50 and Top 10 most innovative companies, according to the slideshow presentation. The company was founded 13 years ago and according to Lanci Nexdine is all about the people.
Lanci said that the company would be built around the community and its needs. “Being people centric means being people-focused,” Lanci explained in the presentation. The company is founded under the principle of “Our Lighted Path,” where they act as a change agent in the community they are in. Being a part of change, the company explained, means offering diversity, equity and inclusion training and development opportunities for their employees.
The dining service is prepared to handle the Kosher dining made available by the university. Nexdine is, “dedicated to traditions and values of Kosher lifestyle,” said the presenters. The company also said during the presentation that it takes food allergen awareness seriously to ensure that all students are able to enjoy their food.
According to Nexdine’s company resume, their culinary commitment includes having all of their food sources from reliable and safe sources, entrees and side dishes are made from scratch daily, fresh herbs are used in place of salt-based seasonings and seasonal and local ingredients are incorporated into their menus.
Nexdine is currently partnered with “numerous secondary schools throughout the Northeast and is currently in discussions with colleges and universities throughout the country,” according to their resume. The dining company has been partnered with the University of Massachusetts medical school since 2019, according to their resume.
As a company, Nexdine works on the implementation of sustainable policies to further their collective commitment to environmental and social responsibility, according to their social responsibility statement. On-campus, to further sustainable practice Nexdine plans to use reusable, biodegradable, compostable goods and ‘green’ chemicals, participate in composting and recycling on campus, use the Green Restaurant Association certification and create of on-campus greenhouses and raised bed gardens.
Sodexo group presented on March 1 from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. All of the company’s senior staff members attended the presentation, which was mostly led by Steve Canario, the vice president of partnership solutions.
“As a company and as individuals who have been honored to get to know your campus personally over the past eight years, we’re determined to elevate the student, employee and faculty quality of life across campus and throughout the Waltham community” according to their resume.
Sodexo plans to take their kosher dining to the next level with the implementation of uCook innovation kitchen at Sherman dining hall. “uCook is where the students get to be the chefs” claimed the director of culinary innovation, Jennifer DiFrancesco. The space will be an interactive kitchen for Brandeis students and will host local and Sodexo guest chefs to prepare new kosher menu items. DiFrancesco also highlighted there will be more plant-based options at the station in response to the demand for it.
The Executive Chef, Douglas McGee noted that they will implement a Lemon Grass station in Sherman, given that Lemon Grass was the most popular station in Usdan Dining hall. In collaboration with the celebrity chef Mai Pham, Lemon Grass in Sherman will be introducing a “plant-forward” version of the original station in Usdan.
AVI Foodsystems presented on March 1 from 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. AVI’s Campus Services division was established in 2002, according to their resume, they are currently partnered with multiple New England universities including Wellesley College and St. Anselm College.
“We feature an unwavering commitment to presenting wholesome foods prepared through minimal processing and with natural ingredients. Throughout our program, we have created fresher options with our made-from scratch philosophy, from Claflin’s house-baked sweets to our house-made pastas and pizzas,” reads their resume.
According to their resume, AVI has not lost a single contract that they have signed in the past three years. The only contract which they lost was due to a system bid that they lost to a competitor at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.
The main pillars of hospitality at AVI are that hospitality is about people and relationships, hospitality is about caring for and supporting each other, and hospitality is about serving others and putting the needs and interests of others first, according to their executive summary. The company’s values have overarching themes in the intersection between food, community and people.
The dining program planned for the university will include an update to the Sherman Dining hall to include a new smokehouse and wood-grill concept, deli meats roasted or smoked in-house and further development of kosher and other culinary platforms. Usdan Dining hall will also be renovated to include a healthier grill, a Pan-Asian noodle and ramen bar and new Exhibition Kitchen featuring global cuisines. Other editions include a Jimmy John’s sandwiches place in Upper Usdan; a refresh of popular brand locations including Dunkin’, Einstein Bros Bagels and Starbucks (Library). The company also plans to introduce LA Mesa Latin American Cuisine in Upper Usdan, Kombucha and cold brew coffees on tap at The Stein and an all-new Hoot Express Market in the International Business School.
Bon Appetit’s Management Company presented on March 2 from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Bon Appetit’s parent company is Compass Group, the same group which owns Sodexo.
“At Bon Appétit, we see ourselves as your partner, and it’s our job to create a custom food program that speaks to Brandeis’ unique culture, student body, and sustainability goals,” according to their resume.
Bon Appetit has experience providing Kosher dining to other universities. According to their resume, the company provides Kosher dining options to Wesleyan University, the food can be enjoyed by all students regardless of whether they follow Kosher living or not. Other universities they’ve provided Kosher dining to includes the University of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Goucher College.
In their executive summary, the company states that its business philosophy is rooted in providing “food service for a sustainable future.” Bon Appetit, according to their summary, is a leader in sustainable procurement, animal welfare, food waste management, and farmworkers’ rights.
Outside of having contracts with university dining halls, Bon Appetit has contracts with Google, LinkedIn and Twitter headquarters and also services the cafés, restaurants and catering for events for The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and The Getty Center in Los Angeles, according to their summary.
The goals of the company in their contract with the university are to increase the excitement and participation of community members in dining, provide radical transparency, earn trust, a dining experience that reflects the community, create a living food story and have sustainability and wellness be intertwined.
Vendor social responsibility statements, qualifications, proposal executive summaries and company resumes can all be found on the university’s Dining RFP page. The feedback form can be found on the same page, community members can fill out the form for each of the presentations they attended and submit their opinion on the presentation, according to the form.