Dining contract up for grabs

Contract with Sodexo Inc. to expire this academic year

The omelette line, stir fry station, breakfast smoothies and themed dinners are just a few of the things many Keene State College students have made a part of their daily lives from the Zorn Dining Commons. Change may be coming to KSC dining, however. The college’ contract with Sodexo Inc. is over at the end of this academic year. 

Benajil Rai  / multimedia director

Benajil Rai / multimedia director

Dining companies have until mid-May to submit their proposals to KSC to be the new food service provider for the school. 

The typical food service provider contract lasts for a period of ten years. General Manager of Dining Services Josef Quirinale said, “Proposals will be submitted to the University System [of New Hampshire]. 

There is a committee made up of KSC staff members and students that will review the proposals, visit other campuses where each company provides the food service and based on those site visits, a presentation of the proposal and the plan each company presents in their proposal for providing the service… the committee will be able to make a final decision.”

One of the members of this committee is Director of Campus Life Jennifer Ferrell. 

Ferrell said, “There is a very long list of information outlined in the request for proposals that includes programs for both Keene State and Plymouth State. They will outline information about operations, types of foods provided, cost for program, staffing and ideas for the future of dining on our campuses.”

The final decision for a new dining company is due by the end of May. 

Sodexo is one of the companies that will be submitting their proposal, so it is possible the college will be working with the same company. 

Quirinale said, “The college, and in this case, the University System [of New Hampshire], publishes a[a Request for Proposal]. Any interested food service company is welcome to provide a proposal to run the food service. In this case, Sodexo is one of the companies that will be submitting a proposal.”

Switching food service providers is a decision that concerns KSC staff and students alike. 

Non-traditional KSC student Crystal Pringle, who has personal relationships with many Zorn Dining Commons staff and has interviewed each of the prospective bidders, said she is worried about how switching providers will effect the dining commons’ workers. 

She said, “Sodexo has a lower than average score as far as employee satisfaction…They do have an average consumer rating comparatively. With that said, I think with some managerial changes, even possible retraining, Sodexo would be the best option for Keene State.” 

Pringle said that she was impressed with a couple of the bidders’ presentations, including the companies Chartwell and Aramark, but was not satisfied with what other companies discussed. 

One company proposed speaking with management to downsize the staff and moving employees to different stations within the Zorn Dining Commons to “find their niche.” “I think changing employers is enough stress without having to learn new jobs, and they would run stringent background checks on everyone again and probably lose people through that process,” Pringle said. 

KSC will make its decision  by the end of May. No matter who is chosen, however, Ferrell said, “We are looking at and for all of those firms who are interested in providing a high quality dining experience for students and our campuses.”

Rachel Vitello can be contacted at rvitello@kscequinox.com

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