The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 66.0°F | Light Rain

Contractors submit bids

By Katherine Shim

Prospective food service contractors submitted proposals to the MIT Food Service Office yesterday. The MIT Food Service Contractor Search Committee will choose the new Institute food service based on these proposals, and make a final decision by May 22.

The committee, which was formed to select a new food contractor, is made up of three undergraduates, one graduate student, three administrators, one professor and two MIT Food Service administrators.

On March 25, the committee sent out "request for proposal" letters to various food service companies. The request for proposal letters "outlined all aspects of MIT Food Service, from finances to performance to catering to how to operate the various dining halls" said Robert H.

Kassel G, a member of the search committee.

Request for proposal letter were sent to ARA, Canteen, Daka, Mariott, Morrison's Custom Management, Feiler Corporation, Service America, Creative Gourmets and Seasoned to Taste.

Interested food contractors subsequently visited the Institute to clear up questions about food service at MIT and to prepare their proposals. Proposals arrived at MIT yesterday.

On Thursday, each member of the search committee will receive copies of the proposals. Within the next month, members will numerically evaluate each contractor on a score sheet and hold several discussions. The contractor receiving the highest score will be chosen as the next Institute food service contractor.

Lawrence E. Maguire, director of housing and food services and chair of the search committee, will submit the final choice of food contractor to Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56 on May 22. The chosen contractor will be notified of the committee's decision May 24.

The new food service company will receive a five-year contract based upon a profit and loss scheme. It will include the meal board plan passed by the Undergraduate Association Food Service Committee that was approved by Dickson on Feb. 27. The approved plan will require a $1000 declining-balance meal plan for all students living in dormitories with dining halls. All dormitory dining halls will be open for dinner only, and convenience stores will be opened at various dining halls during daytime hours.

The final contract will also include a 90-day release clause so that either MIT or the contractor will have the option of withdrawing from the agreement.

Emphasis on innovation

The main criterion in the selection process will be the amount of "innovation" the food contractor shows in dealing with "the unique needs of the MIT campus," said Maguire.

Kassel said, "I really feel that MIT is different from other universities in the hours that people look for food. What I'm looking for is a company that doesn't just provide the stock answers, but that looks into what MIT needs. I'm looking for a company that shows some creativity," he explained.

"When it comes down to it, the quality of service and the quality of food are really hard things to determine when they are written about on paper. What we look for is a company sensitive to MIT needs. Food should be served late. Dinner should be served between 4 and 8 pm. There should be a good variety of food and fast service," Kassel continued.

The committee will place emphasis on compensating for the inevitable losses incurred by keeping dormitory dining halls open for dinner with "cash cows" such as catering, convenience store items and the sale of commercial products like Domino's Pizza on a meal card, Kassel said.

"Catering is a major business at MIT -- from the catering of [President Charles M.] Vest's inauguration to supplying milk and cookies to a small club after classes," Kassel said. "Unfortunately, ARA did not take advantage of this market. A lot of MIT catering goes to outside companies. ARA catering is too expensive and must be ordered too far in advance," Kassel added.

The committee will also emphasize innovative cost-cutting measures, such as preparing food in a central location to be shipped to the dormitory dining halls rather than preparing food separately at each dining hall.