The University’s seven year contract with Aramark, its primary food services partner, is set to expire on June 30 of next year.
The impending expiration of the contract has set in motion a six month long initiative to develop a new agreement with either Aramark or a competitor food services company.
“We know how important quality is to us and so we will review the proposals first and foremost based on the qualitative aspects, hands done, without question,” Dave Furhman, Director of Dining Programs, said.
Furhman said that the Department of Housing and Dining Services will work to form a committee to review bids from Aramark and two to four other food services companies after the office has finished developing and delivering its request for proposal (RFP) to potential food services partners.
The Department of Housing and Dining Services expects the RFP to go out in early November and for proposals to be returned in mid to late December.
The committee will begin to evaluate the proposals in mid to late January and determine finalists by early March at the latest.
“Whenever we go into a bid process for dining we work with a committee that is responsible for evaluating the proposals that different companies submit, reviewing those proposals, and then participating in a number of meetings, both internally, where we talk about the different proposals as a group, and then also participate in the presentations that the finalists are asked to give,” Furhman said.
Furhman hopes to have a contract negotiated and signed by the end of March.
The committee, chaired by Furhman, will also include Mike Sullivan, senior project manager in the Office of Facilities Management, and Carole Mohr, senior director of housing and dining services, as an ad hoc member.
Student involvement also occupies a powerful role in the committee.
“The committee will include a variety of students representing different constituent groups, so certainly SGA will be foremost in terms of representation, as will the RAB folks, and then some other students who have particular interests or needs that would want to be included,” Furhman said.
The students with particular interests include vegan and vegetarian students as well as students on the kosher meal plan.
“As a recent vegetarian coming to college I was already really concerned with having sufficient vegetarian options,” freshman Rosie Grant said, adding, “With the FFC overall I have been impressed with the fact they always have something for the vegetarians to eat. The problem though is the vegetarian options are either saturated in unnecessary calories or healthy but mildly repulsive.”
Furhman underscored his commitment to upgrade food quality for the undergraduates at Hopkins.
“Whether it be Aramark or anyone else, to say that we don’t have room for improvement [on all fronts] would be inaccurate,” he said. “Some of the things I would be looking for in particular would be a wider and deeper level of culinary expertise and attention.”
Junior Alex Schupper, Executive Vice President of SGA, noted Aramark’s improvements to campus dining such as the twice a month sushi night and once monthly prime rib night at Nolan’s on 33rd as progress.
However, Schupper stressed that students are still not fully satisfied with their services.
“In recent history Hopkins has not been the most pleased with Aramark. They do have quality food but Hopkins students obviously hold food to a high standard,” he said. “It’s really put up or shut up for them this year.”
Schupper believes that Hopkins has the resources to improve dining at Hopkins and seeks to use the expiration of Aramark’s contract as an opportunity to usher in such enhancements.
“Change might not be the worst thing, to maybe do a trial or a short term contract with another vendor to see if they can match the output of Aramark or be even better,” Schupper said. “Why not try something new, see some news ideas, see how far we can push Hopkins dining and give it a new reputation on campus?”
Students for Environmental Action (SEA) has also formed a group to work with the University to address issues of sustainability in the new dining contract.
“We want to modify the request for proposal process to ensure that whatever caterer we have is sustainable and treats their workers right,” sophomore John Smeton, membership outreach chair of SEA, said.
Fuhrman emphasized that sustainability is critical in the selection of a food services provider.
“[Sustainability] is absolutely a priority for us and that will be part of the program moving forward whoever is running the program.”