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Contract Extension Likely for Aramark

By Douglas E. Heimburger
STAFFREPORTER

Aramark's contract to operate MIT's dining facilities will probably be extended through the 1997-98 school year.

MITwill have to extend the contract with Aramark because the dining review working group, which has been examining outside dining options available, is not ready to accept bids from other food service providers, said Associate Director of Food Services John T. McNeill.

Aramark is currently operating under a one-year contract extension issued in Oct. 1995 for the 1996-97 school year.

"The Institute has to have time to make a decision" on dining options, McNeill said.In order to select a new dining group by the end of Aramark's current contract this coming June, MITwould have to send requests forproposals to potential contractors by October. That process has not even been started at this point, he said.

"Everybody wanted the dininggroup to finish in a year, but there just isn't time," McNeill said. The Aramarkcontract just should have been extended for two years in the first place, he said.

Thedining review working group was formed last spring to evaluate campus dining and to develop a food services plan.

While it met and worked over the summer, it still has yet to meet with students. "We didn't want to engage the community over the summer, when many people aren't here," said Director of the Campus Activities Complex Phillip J. Walsh, who heads the review group.

Walsh said that the dininggroup plans to finish its report on dining by the beginning of the spring semester.Still, there are "no external obligations" to meet that deadline, he said."If we need to extend the deadline to do it right, we will."

Aramark reshapes image

While the dining group used the summer to gear up for a fall survey of the options for food service on campus, Aramark took the opportunity to change and improve its facilities. Long-time vendors have departed, and the architecture of the dining halls has been changed slightly.

The changes represent a trend of "moving away from national brands to do our own items well," said Food Services Director Elizabeth Emery. Removing the brand names gives Aramark more flexibility, she said.

D'Angelo's Sandwich Shop in the Lobdell Food Court was removed at the beginning of this year. Emery said that the decision to remove D'Angelo's was based in part on the results of a student survey taken last summer, which drew protests from some students.

Aramark "didn't give students a say in the changes. Giving a survey over the summer was unfair," said Pearl S. Kim '97.

D'Angelo's was replaced by Deli Corner, an Aramarkhouse-brand of sandwich shops. Other new features at Lobdell include Kitchen Classics, which serves rotisserie-style chicken, meat loaf, and other "comfort foods," Emery said. The new Center Stage area features vegetarian dishes, and Itza Pizza, an Aramark pizza brand, is a new addition.

The Pizza Hut area at Networks was removed because demand for it was down, Emery said. When Pizza Hut was introduced to Networks, 750 pizzas were sold per day, compared with 250 per day last year. "Pizza Hut was just old," she said.

Emery said that additional changes would be coming to Lobdell in the next few months. Emery said Aramarkwas also considering extending the hours of Itza Pizza. "There's no dining facility serving pizza on campus now in the evening," Emery said.

Student reaction to the changes at Aramarkfacilities were mixed. "I liked D'Angelo's a lot.The Deli Corner doesn't seem too appetizing," Kim said.

"The thing that replaced D'Angelo's isn't that good. There's less choice of meats. They removed everything that I liked," said Hubert J. Vailong G.

Some students, however, like the changes. "I think the changes are good. There's more variety of food now," said Winfried S. Lohmiller G.

"We didn't do as good of a job as we could have during the transition to keep the community informed of the changes," Emery said. "We got so involved in making sure we were open."

New architecture cafe opens

The changes at Lobdell and Networks have been complemented by the opening of a completely new location, the Architecture and Planning Cafe, on the fourth floor of building 7. The cafe, which opened Sept. 9, serves bagels, scones, and upscale sandwiches and salads. Emery said that she hoped the addition of the shop will help relieve the congestion at the building 4 coffee shop during the lunch hours.

Despite the changes and added capacity, however, other important issues remain. "We just don't have enough space to feed everyone on campus at lunch," Emery said.

Amid the rethinking of dining services as a whole, Emery stressed that even the current Aramark service is fluid. "If somebody comes up with a good idea that works, we'll do it," she said. Individuals can e-mail ideas, comments, and concerns to meal@mit.edu.

More surveys will be used in the future to determine additional changes, Emery said. "We have to poll the community and find out what they want," she said.

For example, an "Asian concept" as Emery called it, was rejected at Networks because students told Aramark that they did not feel the campus dining services could provide the style of Asian food they wanted. "We're going to focus on the things we can do well" in the future, Emery said.