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April 29, 2016

Aramark's Out: Bon Appétit Will Be New Campus Dining Provider

After 27 years of service, another food service provider has taken Aramark’s seat at the table. The University announced today that Bon Appétit will serve food in University dining halls next year.

The decision came after UChicago Dining spent four months reviewing contract proposals from Aramark, Sodexo, and Bon Appétit during its Request for Proposal (RFP) process. The RFP process marked the halfway point in Aramark’s ten-year contract with the University.

Representatives from each of the companies presented their proposals on campus last February. After the presentations, UChicago Dining officials and students from the Campus Dining Advisory Board (CDAB) visited other college campuses to test the providers’ food. Twenty-six stakeholders from nearby campus cafes and representatives from UChicago Facilities Services also reviewed the proposals. Vice President for Campus and Student Life Karen Warren Coleman made the final decision.

“Bon Appétit was selected because of their demonstrated ability to meet the expectations students identified as most important in a dining program: great food prepared in a healthy way; vegan, vegetarian, kosher, and halal options; a consistently high-quality experience; and sustainable practices,” she wrote in an email to all students in the College, announcing the change. “We look forward to working with them to further UChicago Dining’s mission of building community through food, creating unique dining experiences, and serving the best food while also supporting the surrounding neighborhoods and local and minority- and women-owned businesses.”

She added that meal plans and hours of operation would remain the same for at least the first year of the contract.

Of the three companies, Bon Appétit has the highest food service ratings. The company currently serves at Wheaton College, where students have consistently given its services an “A+” rating on college review site Niche.com. Sodexo serves at Northwestern, where it currently maintains a “B+” rating, while Aramark holds an “A-” and a “B-” rating from UChicago and Loyola University, respectively.

Second-year CDAB member and College Council (CC) Representative Michael Meng said that Bon Appétit’s presentation on campus set the company apart from the rest. “I really think that the presentation was indicative of who they [Bon Appétit] are,” Meng said. “The CEO, CFO, and Chairman were all present, and they just talked about what providing the best food meant for them. It was the most down-to-earth, transparent experience.”

All food will be cooked in-house for the first time starting next year. The University is now looking to hire 200 more staff members to assist the new head chef.

Though the University’s contract with Aramark ends on June 30, the service provider will continue to serve at the Medical Center and Booth School of Business. Managerial positions are expected to change, but almost all on-site dining workers will be retained.

Meng said that the decision to break-off Aramark’s ten-year contract at its halfway point is indicative of UChicago Dining’s eagerness to make changes for the better. “This is not much of a loss for us at all. It was time for a change.”

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