College to review five dining services proposals

Dining ServicesA few weeks ago, Keenan Boscoe ’18 was putting together a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in Dana when he noticed a group of men in suits observing the dining hall, watching as students circulated between the salad bar, Simple Servings Station, and pasta station. One of the men introduced himself, explaining that he and his colleagues were representatives of a dining service company visiting Colby to collect information and prepare their proposal to bid for management of Colby’s dining services.

Five different companies have visited campus and collected information that will aid them in putting together their proposals to manage the College’s dining halls. During April, these companies will review an advisory committee consisting of students, administrators, and faculty who will review proposals and provide feedback. The process should be complete by May 1.

Bon Appétit, a dining service company based in Palo Alto, California, is one company placing a bid to manage Colby Dining services. The dining service has a special emphasis on sustainability and partners with locally-owned farms and producers to serve fresh ingredients. The company also provides services for Wesleyan University and Oberlin College. It has more schools on PETA’s list of top vegan-friendly schools than any other university food service provider.

Metz Culinary Management is another company placing a bid. Like Bon Appétit, Metz is committed to nutrition and sourcing food sustainably. They manage T.G.I Friday’s, Wolfgang Puck Express, and Krispy Creme. With experience in the restaurant world, the company has experience adapting operations, menus, and environments to the shifting demands of consumers.

Another service, CulinArt Group, emphasizes not only sustainability and local food sourcing, but also backs wellness initiatives that focus on living a healthy lifestyle. Their menus utilize an icon system to inform diners of meal choices that are under 500 calories, or recipes that incorporate whole, naturally flavorful and nutritious foods prepared with healthful cooking methods.

Chartwells is a company committed to creating a dining hall experience that brings students together and serves as centers of academic and social life on campus, with cuisine that nourishes and inspires students. Like the other companies, they source their food locally and partner with nearby farms. Their menu system allows diners to easily find the nutritional value of their meal, as well as the origins of the food. Chartwells prides itself on its burgers, which they cook fresh to order.

Aramark if the fifth company that Colby is considering to run the dining services. The company is 80 years old serves over 2 billion meals yearly across the globe. Aramark prides itself on its relationships with students, stating on their website that they frequently gather research and insight for a deeper understanding of students’ wants and needs.

Sodexo will also be placing a bid for Colby’s dining services. Larry Llewyn, Director of Dining Services, said that the “the mission is to provide a quality dining program to all members of the Colby community but most especially to the students who live on campus. This effort includes meeting the many faceted dietary needs of the population as relates to culture, religious restrictions, and the multitude of food sensitivities and allergies. Paramount in the mission of Colby Dining Services are the needs of the students who live on campus.” In the past, Sodexo has adapted menus and programs based on the concerns of Colby students, like opening Roberts on weekends, the unlimited swipes policy, the smoothie program, and a new take-out program that will be introduced next week.

Overall, many students who spoke with the Echo hope that next year, the dining halls will have more of an emphasis on healthy food. Foss is a popular dining hall for its unique and sophisticated menu, so some students hope that next year, other dining halls will have similar meal options.

Students also hope that there will be increased awareness to the dietary needs of students with allergies. “As someone with a tree nut allergy, I feel that there are some days in Foss where everything contains a tree nut and I am only able to eat the soup or select things from the salad bar. Also there have been several times when things are unlabeled or mislabeled,” senior Cat McLure ’16 says. For many students with allergies, navigating the dining hall can be difficult.

Jake Lester ’18, one of the students on the Dining Service Search Committee, summarized the goal of the search: “A new dining program should satisfy these needs for simply good tasting and wholesome food, prepared from high quality ingredients. In short, we want students to be impressed every day by the food they eat and the programs the dining provider initiates.”