Process for new campus dining services provider has begun

(Kyle Parks / The McDaniel Free Press).(Kyle Parks / The McDaniel Free Press).

Six vendors visited campus on Aug. 31 to learn about the College and begin the process to submit proposals for all campus dining services.

“The plan is to have a decision made by early December,” said Tom Phizacklea, vice president for administration and finance. If a new vendor is selected, they should be operating by the first day of the spring semester.

Among the companies was Sodexo, the current provider that has faced harsh criticism from students and families of the College community.

Also on campus were Aladdin Food Management Services, Aramark, AVI Foodsystems, Bon Appétit, Metz Culinary Management, and Parkhurst Dining.

The companies saw Englar Dining Hall, the space in Klitzberg Pavilion where Vocelli Pizza operated, Caseys’ Corner, and the Pub, said Phizacklea.

They each have one day to visit campus and collect information to put together their proposals. Visitations are expected to be completed by Sept. 12.

Once proposals are sent to a consultant hired by the College, an on-campus committee will aim to hand off two or three finalists to the College for “full blown” presentations, Phizacklea said. The College will then review financials and make the “early December” decision.

The committee is made up of eight professional staff members from various divisions; Kelly Chase, associate director of advancement engagement; Julia Jasken, provost of the College; Heidi Reigel, director of admissions; Michael Robbins, associate dean of students and director of residence life and student engagement; Kim Seeley, director of financial planning and budget; Liz Towle, acting dean of students; Valerie Westbrook, coordinator of conference, camp, and events scheduling; and students Sylvan Greyson, a senior, and Treyana Johnson, a junior. Four additional students were invited but couldn’t make the first meeting.

“Being a part of this committee shows how dedicated McDaniel is by acknowledging students’ input,” said Johnson.

So far, the committee has only been introduced to the possible vendors, and have provided input about what the campus wants from their provider, according to Johnson.

Bidding providers are expected to submit their plans for all food venues on campus, including the space formerly contracted to Vocelli Pizza.

“Each vendor has been asked to submit a proposal and their ideas for how they will use the Vocelli space,” said Phizacklea.

Students have reportedly suggested a smoothie bar to better compliment the neighboring fitness center.

The space is expected to remain unfilled through the end of the academic year, according to Phizacklea.

Caseys’ Corner, Green and Go, and the Pub will also be a part of each proposal.

“Caseys’ Corner isn’t broken, so I don’t expect anybody to fix that,” Phizacklea said.

He also stated that Green and Go won’t go away in any fashion, but could be better incorporated into the Pub should that be renovated.

“We are looking for ideas to modernize,” he said. “The Pub’s tired. There’s definitely an opportunity for the Pub to be revitalized, and hopefully students can weigh in.”

Johnson would like to see her committee select vendors who can give more options to the campus.

“I hope the committee chooses a vendor who will provide an edible and flavorful variety of foods, with more healthy options for students,” Johnson said.

The junior would also like to see a provider who cares about their workers and customer satisfaction.

Phizacklea, new to overseeing dining services, was unable to comment on if criticism from students and their parents impacted the decision to open the bidding process.

Acting Dean of Students Liz Towle, however, has interacted with a number of students and families unhappy with Sodexo’s operations.

“I always say to students, if you have concerns about anything with the operations, find the general manager or the operation manager,” said Towle.

She emphasized the importance of reporting an incident the moment it happens so it can be appropriately resolved.

Under tough scrutiny last spring, Sodexo sent officials to review operations at McDaniel. No announcements were made if the review left any lasting results.

“They have been total professionals,” said Phizacklea of Sodexo during the open bidding process. “As you imagine, they’re not happy we’re doing this. In that business they’re in, they’re often the hunter, not the hunted. Now they’re the hunted.”

Sodexo has been McDaniel’s dining services provider for 20 years, according to Rita Webster, former general manager of food services.