By Rachel Stengel
With its current contract with food service provider Aramark drawing to an end, Rider has begun evaluating its options with regard to providers, looking at Aramark and seven other providers, according to Jan Friedman-Krupnick, assistant vice president for Student Affairs.
Aramark, which provides the service at Daly’s, Cranberry’s, the Bronc Diner, Westminster Commons, Westminster Pub, Java City, Starbucks and catering services, has been contracted with the university since 2001. The results of the survey yielded student feedback for changes in Daly’s.
Rider is considering eight possible food service providers: Chartwells, Bon Appétit, Gourmet Dining Services, Sodexo, CulinArt, Acorn, Parkhurst and the current provider Aramark. The companies will develop proposals based upon what they think would interest students. The candidates will be narrowed down to two or three based on the quality of their proposals.
These providers will supply a sample of their food, ideas for meal plans and an estimate of the cost, and they will introduce their manager to faculty and students. Ideally, they will develop new station ideas and creative food options, Friedman-Krupnick said. Also, providers will present a schematic of their design for Daly’s. They will tour the dining hall to generate ideas for their schematics. The deadline to choose a new food service provider is July 1, 2011.
“It’s been 10 years since we put the contract out to bid,” said Friedman-Krupnick, who acts as contract manager. “We have a responsibility to our students to review and understand the latest trends in food service and offer a program that provides the greatest value and satisfaction for the cost. We feel we have a responsibility to contact several vendors to give them an opportunity to tell us what their vision of food services would be at Rider.”
Students beleive that the atmosphere and setup of Daly’s can be improved.
“I think we need a bigger selection and more variety,” said Alicia Quayson. “It’s not as welcoming as a college environment should be. The setup, color and atmosphere is uninviting, especially where the food is displayed.”
Student surveys over the past 10 years reveal that Rider has fared well, continually improving since Aramark became the school’s food service provider, according to Friedman-Krupnick.
“Throughout the length of the current contract we have made changes to the food service program based upon input from students,” said Friedman-Krupnick. “Our goal is continuous improvement based upon student feedback and evolving trends in food service.”
Rider began reevaluating its food service earlier this year. Surveys were e-mailed to students, and a food consultant from Porter Khouw Consulting Inc. was hired to assist Rider with the evaluation process. Focus groups were developed to assess students’ individual needs and desires concerning food service.
Rider compiled the feedback to form an RFP (Request for Proposal). This opened the market to possible food service providers who would be interested in managing Rider’s food service.
“A desire for nutritional information came out of the survey,” stated Friedman-Krupnick.
Students agree that there is a lack of healthier options.
“I think Daly’s has a wide variety. They do not have enough healthy choices. There are mainly more hamburgers, fries and grilled cheeses. I wish there were more fresh fruits,” said freshman Robert McBride.
This is just one of the changes students suggested in the survey and focus groups. Students felt that having the desserts directly in from of the entrance to the dining hall did not promote a healthy lifestyle. The desserts were then moved closer to the ice cream after Daly’s recent reorganization. However, Friedman-Krupnick explained that what students say they want and what they actually want can often be two separate things.
“While students indicate they want more healthy options, what they actually eat doesn’t always bear that out,” she said. “The menu selections given to bidders included food choices to meet a variety of dietary needs and tastes.”
Rider has expanded its vegetarian options in the past few years to accommodate such students.
The biggest issue, though, was the traffic flow in Daly’s. The setup of the dining hall is outdated. The school’s population has grown in the last decade and the dining facilities are not up to date.
“It’s our hope to renovate the dining halls at Westminister and Lawrenceville. We’re looking for food service companies to invest in those renovations,” Friedman-Krupnick said.
She illustrated students’ discontent with Daly’s through an example.
“Pick your favorite restaurant, go to it three times a day, seven days a week and its not your favorite restaurant anymore,” she said.
Nonetheless, some students still find options they enjoy.
“I think that there’s a wide variety of food,” said Lori Nissim. “I can always find something and when all else fails there is the delicious salad bar.”
Rider’s challenge is to satisfy the individual palates of its students and provide enough variety for residents. Bronc Bucks was the short-term solution to that dilemma. It provided students with an alternative to Daly’s that would offer more options such as Cranberry’s, Starbucks and Java City. Rider hopes to choose a food service provider that will offer an eclectic menu with a wide variety of dietary choices.
According to Friedman-Krupnick, Rider’s main concern is the satisfaction of its students as well as cost effectiveness.
“We always want to take into account what students have to say and make decisions about what programs to offer,” she said. “We also want to be very mindful of the cost to students.”