The Dining Services Request for Proposal (RFP) Committee decided early this September to reconsider Trinity’s dining vendor. Committee members, including Paul Wright, chair of the committee and director of business operations, and Bruce Bravo, senior director of conferences and auxiliary services, are evaluating Trinity’s dining needs and choosing a vendor that can best serve the university.
Currently, Aramark is the dining vendor for Trinity. Aramark oversees the dining in Mabee, the Commons and Skyline. Although Trinity’s contract with Aramark has no time constraint, Aramark has been Trinity’s dining vendor for almost 40 years. Charles Robles, food service director for Aramark, believes that Aramark has done more in Trinity’s community than manage the dining services on campus.
“Dining on campus is not just food. We strive to enhance the student experience through theme events in Mabee Hall, multiple retail options and exclusive made-from-scratch recipes,” Robles wrote in an email interview. “In addition, Aramark partners with Trinity on sustainability efforts, campus-wide events and community outreach.”
Although a change in dining vendors is not guaranteed, the RFP Committee will allow Trinity to review proposals from all the vendors who agreed to compete for a contract to be Trinity’s dining vendor.
“Trinity, as part of its best practices, felt the need to reevaluate that contract, take a look at it and put it out to bid as part of that dining survey,” Bravo said.
The Letters of Intent to Bid were due Nov. 6, confirming the final vendors who will be competing for the contract to be Trinity’s dining service. Of the eight vendors that Trinity invited to compete, five will submit proposals by Dec. 5. The five vendors are American Dining Creations, Aramark, Bon Appétit, CulinArt and Sodexo.
The potential dining vendors were unable to comment on the selection process because they are working on their proposals for review. During the bidding process, vendors are prohibited from commenting on their plans.
One of the vendors Trinity is considering is American Dining Creations. According to its website, American Dining Creations is the fastest growing dining vendor in the industry and provides services in 15 states to higher education facilities.
Trinity’s current vendor, Aramark, has dealt with a number of controversies over their practices and policies. Aramark began as a vending machine company in the 1950s and began buying up their competition. These acquisitional practices ultimately led to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filing a lawsuit against Aramark in which Aramark paid a fine and divested its properties. Aramark has also been accused of contracting misconduct in nine states, and it settled lawsuits or paid fines in six of those nine states. In 2015, Aramark was forced to pay $165,000 to settle allegations that it discriminated against male and African-American job applicants.
Bon Appétit, another potential vendor, received backlash recently regarding a video the company made. On Sep. 6, Bon Appétit posted a video titled “Pho is the New Ramen,” invoking accusations of cultural appropriation in food. Bon Appétit was criticized for comparing pho to ramen. Bon Appétit was also accused of misrepresenting their chef, who acted as a food critic in the video, as Vietnamese when he was not. Bon Appétit has since posted an apology on their website.
CulinArt is a prospective vendor for next year and was founded in 1969, currently serving 18 states across the United States. CulinArt provides dining services at Carnegie Mellon University and was recently under fire for underpaying their employees at the university. Working with Carnegie Mellon and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), CulinArt did agree to a wage increase, closing the pay gap between the workers of CulinArt and the rest of the Carnegie Mellon community workers.
The last vendor Trinity is considering is Sodexo. Sodexo has been accused of misconduct in their contracting, racial discrimination and food safety. In August 2000, Sodexo was forced to settle charges with New York State Attorney General for overcharging school districts. Sodexo settled a lawsuit, paying $80 million, for denying promotions to about 3,400 African-American managers. Sodexo has been cited for a number of food violations in the last few years and has been forced to withdraw its products from schools.
More information on these vendors should become available after the proposals are reviewed on Dec. 6. For more information on this process, visit the Dining Services RFP Committee’s website.