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College taps Bon Appetit to manage food service (See: Details and Fast Facts)

April 11, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Beginning this summer, Bon Appetit will take over management of the college’s food service. But although the college’s food program will change, the people will not, President Bierman said in an email to the campus yesterday afternoon.

The food service taskforce, which Bierman convened last fall to investigate the community’s food needs and wants, saw Bon Appetit as “a provider with a proven track record of serving high quality, healthy, and responsible meals on campuses like ours, as well as a company with a commitment to doing this work in a way that harnesses – and respects – the individual talents and roles of those people who plan, prepare, and deliver those meals,” he wrote.

Bon Appetit, which has representatives on campus today to meet with food service employees, will take over management in mid June. President Bierman, aided by members of senior staff, had been reviewing the taskforce’s recommendation since it was handed in on March 15. The announcement of the change in management came after almost a month spent working with members of the taskforce, senior staff, and others to ensure that the college could make the transition work—operationally, financially, and otherwise.

Dean of Students Christina Klawitter (who led the taskforce and oversees the college’s food service operation) said this was a partnership that “helps us answer the community’s stated wants and need” and “gives Beloit, our students, and our dining service employees access to resources and experience” not currently available.  

She cites the company’s success with sustainable and local food purchasing, its willingness to and experience in building distinctive, student-led food projects, as well as the company’s training and development programs as major contributors to the decision.

Another selling point was the company’s experience on small residential campuses like Beloit. Bon Appetit manages the campus food operations at several ACM colleges, including St. Olaf, Macalester, and Lawrence, as well as at Reed, Oberlin, Goucher, and Lewis & Clark.  

“This is a residential campus,” says Klawitter. “At the end of the day, we were asked to invest more in our food service—to understand and privilege the important role it plays in the lives of our students and community and to tie it more deliberately to our mission and values while better supporting the people who deliver that food each day. We think that, through this decision, we’ve set ourselves up to do all those things in the year and years ahead.”  

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A move like this one has a lot of moving parts. As a result, the Terrarium team has compiled a number of “Details” and “Fast Facts” that attempt to answer any lingering questions or concerns about this new direction. If you don’t see something here, please email us at terrarium@beloit.edu and we’ll attempt to get you some answers.

For additional information, see:

 

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Additional Details:

Program will change, people will not
While the campus community wasn’t shy about offering ideas for changing and enhancing the college’s food program, students, faculty, and staff were equally vocal about what shouldn’t change:  the people. As a result, the college’s Request for Proposals clearly required all bidders to retain the college’s current dining service workers. Bon Appetit has committed to that requirement. And the college has gone a step further—and will continue to provide the tuition remission benefit to current employees who use or intend to use that benefit.

Commons to go under the hammer this summer
A designer, construction firm, and Bon Appetit managers are meeting with student affairs, residential life, and physical plant staff today to begin hammering out plans for a remodel of Commons this summer. The plan is to accommodate more food stations while changing up and updating Common’s seating configuration. If you attended the public presentations, you heard a lot about updating D.K.’s. That will come later. The initial physical enhancements are to be focused on the most-used facility on campus:  Commons.

Costs:  No change next year, 2013-14 TBD
President Bierman, in his letter to the campus yesterday, underlined that this news would not require students to pay more for food next year. However, the college entered this work last fall knowing that it invested far less in food than it needed to. Work is already underway to determine how this might play out beginning in 2013-14. Stay tuned.

Meal plan changes coming, but not ready for prime time yet
Coming out of their investigation period, the Food Taskforce knew that students simultaneously wanted more value and flexibility in their meal plans. Staff from the college and Bon Appetit will spend the coming months working to deliver on that request. In the meantime, John Winkelmann and Klawitter are advising students to go ahead and sign up for their usual meal plan for fall. (But again—remember that you won’t see a dollar increase in costs for next academic year, 2012-13.)

D.K.’s presents a ‘larger opportunity’
D.K.’s, which was a main focus of this year’s Space Use Planning Taskforce, will get some basic space improvements this summer to facilitate the change in approach and operations that Bon Appetit has proposed. Any major renovations, like those proposed in several of the bidder’s campus presentations, will need to wait a bit as the larger campus space use conversations evolve.  Don’t be surprised to see a fund-raising effort directed at Pearsons at some point in the future.

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Fast Facts:

Mid-June     campus switch to a Bon Appetit-managed food service

200+     interviews conducted by food service taskforce, in addition to online surveys and other      appeals   for input

All 27     the number of current food service workers that Bon Appetit will retain

7     the number of new local employees the company plans to hire

18,000     the number of hours student workers will continue to be employed in food service, now under the direction of Bon Appetit (about the same allotment as in previous years)

= or >     pay for all employees. All current food service employees will be compensated at their current rate or better under Bon Appetit management

Intact     the college has committed to providing all current employees with the tuition remission benefit they currently enjoy as Beloit employees

6     number of food service providers – including the college’s own in-house division – that participated in a full day “bidder’s conference” in December aimed at acquainting those companies with the college, its facilities, and its students

4     public presentations by the groups vying for the food service business (including an in-house team)