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Report Calls for Competition in Food Services



By Douglas E.Heimburger
Associate News Editor

The diningreview working group will release its final report today, and it will call for the reopening of several closed dormitory dining halls and a restructuring of the system of contracting dining to outside operators.

In one of the most visible changes from the current system, two major contractors will run the dining system, with one serving the main campus and the other serving the west campus dining facilities as well as dining facilities at the Sloan School, said Phillip J. Walsh, director of the Campus Activities Complex, who headed the review group.

Originally, the new system was to have four contractors, but that system was financially infeasible,Walsh said.

Competition between the vendors will allow for more quality and service without increasing cost, Walsh said. In addition, financial models prepared by an outside consultant show that the contractors "can make money under the program."

The working group, which has been meeting since February of last year, was charged with finding a replacement dining system for the Aramark monopoly, which has been in place for nearly a decade. Its report will be sent to Dean forStudents and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams and Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56, who will then decide what will be implemented.

In the meantime, however, the group has been told to move into a transitionary phase to the new system, Walsh said. Requests for proposals for contractors will likely be created soon so that the new system can be in place by July.

Dorm dining halls to be reopened

Besides breaking up the campus into two contracts, the dining group also calls for the reopening of all the west campus dining halls.

McCormick Hall's dining facility would be fully operational by July 1999 under the proposals, Walsh said. The kitchen of McCormick, which is in the best condition of any of the closed dormitory kitchens, will also be used to supply Ashdown House residents with a catered meal several times a week, Walsh said.

By 2000, catered meals prepared at Next House and Baker House would be served at MacGregor House and Burton-Conner House several days a week. "Catering is at a level of development so that quality is as good" as meals cooked on site, Walsh said.

An alternative to the proposal would fully reopen MacGregor's dining hall and move MacGregor Convenience to Burton-Conner House, Walsh said.

Lobdell Food Court would have reduced evening hours for financial reasons and to encourage residents to eat in their dormitories, Walsh said.

Each dormitory would have a local "dining board" to oversee the menu selection and community processes involved in dining, Walsh said. The board, including members of dormitory government and other interested parties, "would craft their dining program for the year."

In halls without dining facilities, support would be given to maintaining minimal levels of cleanliness and upgrading capital needs of the kitchens, Walsh said. Microwaves and other kitchen items currently purchased and upgraded by dormitory governments would now be provided by the Institute directly.

In addition, the dining board in these dormitories would work to obtain discounts on bulk purchasing and provide cooking classes for interested members of the dormitory, Walsh said. "We're going to try to be intentional in our support for" home cooking, Walsh said.

Competition, card use to increase

Competition would increase dramatically among catering companies, with the current monopoly being replaced by 10 to 15 approved vendors competing for Institute business.

The two main dining contractors would be among the group, but companies like Bertucci's could also bid for the spots, said JohnS. Hollywood G, a member of the board.

Local restaurants can also join the new dining system by accepting MIToversight in exchange for the ability to accept the MITCard for purchases, Walsh said. Groups on campus like LaVerde's and Toscanini's Ice Cream could eventually be required to accept the card as part of contract renegotiations for their space, Walsh said.

While meal plans will not be mandatory, discounts on dining will likely be available as part of voluntary meal plans, Walsh said.

Elizabeth Emery, director of food services for Aramark, declined to comment because she had not yet seen the report.