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Aramark's Contract Extended by a Year

ByDouglas E. Heimburger
News Editor

Aramark's contract to serve as MIT's dining services provider will be extended until June 30, 1999.

The contract extension, which will usher in Aramark's 13th year at the Institute, is necessary because a competitive bid process incorporating the work of the dining review group could not be completed by the end of this year's contract, said Lawrence E. Maguire, director of housing and food services.

Time constraints inherent in the bidding process require it to begin in October of the preceding academic year. The dining review group submitted its final report last December; final approval was given only this month.

"My expectation is that in October decisions will be made on a bid process for the future,"Maguire said. "We want to get the best deal" for students and the Institute.

The new Aramark contract will be based upon a "management fee" where Aramark receives a guaranteed three percent of all sales. In this model, the Institute absorbs all losses and claims any profits from the dining operation as a whole. The contract also gives MIT near-complete control over items such as hours of operation, Maguire said.

In previous years, Aramark operated the dining facilities under a profit-loss model, where Aramark andMITtogether shared the risks of the operation.

Aramark ready for bidding

Aramark, while accepting the one-year contract extension, is looking forward to competitively bidding for the Institute's dining operation, said Elizabeth Emery, Aramark director of food services.

This is the third extension of Aramark's original five-year contract, which ran from 1991 until 1996. The one year term of each extension has led to instability in the work force, Emery said."The hardest thing for the people that work here is not knowing if they're going to have a job"in a year or two.

While unionized cooking staffs are protected under any new contractor, others such as cashiers and administrative staffers are not, Emery said.

During the next year, Aramark will attempt to continue to improve the dining process through new concepts, Emery said. "We want people to feel better about the dining program."

Group willing to work longer

Pushing back the deadline will give the dining review group additional time to create more of the support services necessary for the new dining system, saidCampus Activities Complex Director Philip J. Walsh, who heads the group.

This summer, the group hopes to finalize plans for a new Office of Campus Dining. The office will be staffed full-time by a manager who will oversee all food contractors under the new program.

The new office will also work to create new residential teams to oversee the dining options available to each dormitory, Walsh said. The final report of the working group urged the creation of these teams to oversee cooking programs, community dinners and other aspects of dining for each dormitory.

In addition, discussions will begin with McCormick Hall over the potential reopening of their dining hall in the near future, Walsh said.

The group has also started conversations with Star Market on potential agreements to benefit the student body, Walsh said.Anew Star Market will open in University Park this summer.

Finally, the group will attempt to obtain additional financing to support renovations and other improvements prior to the implementation new dining program. "Front-end investment is going to be critical to the long-term success,"Walsh said.

The dining review group's final report, which was released in December, called for the Aramark dining contract to be split into two parts: one serving the residence halls and Lobdell food court, and the other serving Walker Memorial and other main campus dining facilities. The report also called for competition in catering services on campus, and for tightened control over the food trucks and other on-campus facilities.

Finally, the report urged MIT to forge new relationships with nearby eateries, and to extend use of theMITcard to off-campus facilities near the Institute.