Aramark Up For Renewal: Committee Ponders Options

by Laura Dilley

 MIT's current food service contractor, Aramark Corporation, is
coming up for contract renewal with MIT in October. A committee
composed of graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff
formed this past spring and has been meeting since early summer to
study food services at MIT. Its goal is to come up with
recommendations for the contract renewal which will benefit the MIT
community at large.
	"I think that food service has a large impact on the quality
of campus life," said Phil Bernard, Director of Residence and Campus
Housing and Food Service Committee member.
	One of the aims of the committee is to attempt to provide
recommendations which, if adopted, will positively affect campus
life. In keeping with this goal, the committee is considering a
variety of possible options. There are several: the Aramark contract
could be renewed for five years; it could be reviewed provisionally
for a year; or it could be denied in lieu of a different food service
contractor, such as Marriott or DAKA, the two other major US campus
food service corporations. The last and least likely possibility is to
invite some competition onto the campus, so that a number of different
independent contractors would service the MIT community at once.
	There is support from some students, staff, and faculty for
the idea of opening up MIT Food Services to competition.
	"Hopefully, [a competitive food service] would be an
environment where the diverse student food needs would be met as
absolutely as possible-as well as the food service company making a
profit: a win-win situation," Bernard said.
	MIT appears reluctant to introduce such a system. Health
concerns and concerns about quality of food are two often-cited
reasons.
	"There may be a sense that too many competitors would not
create a coherent mission in food services," Bernard said.
	According to the results of the Student Life survey, taken
last year, students are not satisfied with current food service
offerings. It is unclear whether a change in food service contractors
would increase student satisfaction with food services.
	Albert Hsu, a senior, feels that more attention is paid to
student opinion around the time of contract renewal.
	"[Aramark] gets panicky when it gets close to contract
renewal," Hsu said. “Maybe the contract cycle should be only two
years.”
	The current contract cycle is five years.
	Other student groups are pleased with the level of
responsiveness to their concerns. A number of vegetarian offerings
were recently added to the menu at many locations on campus, according
to Matt Krom, graduate student and member of the MIT Vegetarian
Support Group.
	"We're really pleased with how we’ve been received by food
services," Krom said.
	Other concerned student groups include Baker dormitory
residents and residents of other dorms which have in the past had a
dining hall. The committee is looking into the feasibility of
re-opening some or all residence hall dining facilities.
	Recommendations from the Food Service Committee are expected
to be made in late September or early October.

[thistle homepage] [Volume 9] [9.10 - contents]