University opens food service contract

Written By Josh Croup

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photo by Chloe Jakiela
RaeShawn Richardson, five-year food service member at Point Park, prepares ready-to-eat food for students in the Café on Monday. Point Park is in the process of reviewing bids for food service providers for a contract to take effect next fall. 

A new food service provider could come to Point Park next fall.

Aramark is in its last semester under contract as Point Park’s food service provider. The University is currently in the process of accepting bids from Aramark and other companies for next school year.

Last year, the United Student Government (USG) received more complaints about food service than any other issue, which led the group to submit a vote of no confidence in March.

“I’ve spoken publicly about this. I want to move on,” USG President Blaine King said in a phone interview last week. “I’m willing to work with Aramark, but they have to reach out to USG. We already signed a vote of no confidence last year. With that said, I’m not going to run to Aramark and try to work with them. It’s going to have to be them running to us.”

A vote of no confidence is both a rare and serious action. With the document, USG is stating that the student body is looking to eliminate Aramark and not just implement small changes.

Dean of Student Life Michael Gieseke said last year’s vote of no confidence played a major role in starting the search for a new food vendor.

“The president of the university and the vice president for finance and operations oversee this contract,” Gieseke said after Monday’s USG meeting. “They both saw and heard that. From that, they made the decision. It was huge.”

USG Vice President Gabe Dubin said in a phone interview last week that USG is in the process of putting together a request for proposal (RFP) to send to other food service providers in order to possibly replace Aramark.

Dubin said he appreciates the novelty items that Aramark has put in the café such as sushi, but believes the same issues still exist.

“Part of that is an inconsistency within the management,” Dubin said. “We have had different food service directors in the past four or five years. It’s difficult to maintain a high level of food service with the overlap. We really just want some follow-through.”

Dubin is one of the USG representatives on the committee searching for potential food vendors to place bids.  

Dean of Students Keith Paylo is also on the committee. He said after Monday’s USG meeting that students are looking for the whole package in a food service provider.

“I would say [a successful bid is] a culmination of everything that a food service organization brings to the table,” Paylo said. “Part of that is quality, management, hot topics such as healthy eating, availability and access. It’s all one huge package in a sense that everything gets brought to the table.”

Complaints King hears range from Aramark’s customer service to the quality and quantity of food.

Dubin has witnessed minor improvements, but still does not believe Aramark has done enough to win over the student body.

“We want to have good food,” Dubin said. “We want to have decent catering prices so we don’t have to go off campus when we’re holding student events. Personally, I don’t think they’ve done enough. We’ll see how the rest of this semester will go, but only time will tell.”

Aramark is also currently the food service provider for the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates. The Philadelphia based company has clients in 2,200 colleges, universities and school districts, according to its 2015 fact sheet.

Point Park is currently the only local university that uses Aramark’s dining services.

Duquesne, Chatham and Robert Morris each use Parkhurst Dining, one of the many dining service companies USG is sending an RFP.

“We’re trying to improve the student body,” King said. “You want to impress us so that we can reach out to the student body and say, ‘Hey, they’re trying to work with us.’ Until I see that, I’m still not impressed with Aramark. I’m happy that they made some changes, but there are changes they definitely still could make.” 

An open forum will take place this Wednesday, Jan. 20 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in 701 Student Center to give the students a chance to hear from bidders.

“The point of Wednesday is to give companies that are looking to put a bid in a chance to talk to students and to understand what students are looking for,” Gieseke said. “The whole point of Wednesday is to make sure students get a voice.”

Dubin said Aramark was invited to the forum, but was not sure if the company would send representatives.

Aramark declined an interview request due to the active bid process.