Responding to students’ desire to explore new opportunities for future food service operations at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, campus leadership engaged in extensive review of current operations and, through significant campus community consultation, presented food service recommendations for discussion with the Board of Regents Finance & Operations Committee during its October meeting. Those recommendations include not only continuing to contract with an outside vendor, rather than managing dining services in-house, but also taking the next step in the request for proposal (RFP) process.
Leaders reinforced that their recommendations resulted from extensive, semester-long consultation with a variety of stakeholders, whose input was collected and considered through interviews, meetings, surveys and more. In all, more than 13,000 members of the campus community provided input that informed key priorities, such as food variety and inclusive dietary options, value, hours of operation, sustainability, ethics/corporate responsibility and more.
A Student Advisory Committee met regularly and provided continuous feedback, including during a process in which outside food service experts assisted in the development of an RFP and a complete self-operation business plan. This broad planning and consultation work prepared the Management Committee, which included administrative leaders and student representatives, to establish criteria around priorities such as program, sustainability and costs. The RFP process was delayed by a year due to the pandemic in order to allow the food service industry to stabilize and generate competitive offers from vendors.
Based on their analysis of the RFP responses and the self-operation business plan, the administration recommended that a contracted dining program best positions the University to meet current and future dining needs, including the priorities expressed by the campus community throughout the consultation process while considering impact on total cost of attendance. Leaders have recommended Chartwells to advance in the RFP process for the core residential, retail and catering dining program on the Twin Cities campus and intend to bring an agreement to the Board in December that would begin on July 1, 2022.
In addition to calling for proposals to operate campus dining services on the Twin Cities campus, the RFP process included the opportunity to bid on work at the U of M Landscape Arboretum and with Gopher Athletics, which have separate food service arrangements and will be financially independent from the core program. Those possible agreements will also require Board review and approval in December; both agreements are expected to take effect July 1, 2022.
Dining services on the Twin Cities campus have been a contracted operation since 1998. The existing food service agreement with Aramark was initially approved by the Board in 2008 and extended in 2018.
The Board also:
- Discussed emerging cybersecurity certification requirements with leadership from the Office of the Vice President for Research.
- Received an update on the system strategic enrollment plan.
- Discussed key learnings from delivering classes during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as best practices for remote or hybrid instruction.
- Toured the University’s Health Sciences Education Center, which officially opened in Fall 2020.
- Approved the President’s recommended six-year capital plan and 2022 state capital request.
- Discussed the University’s budget model in an overview provided by Vice President and Budget Director Julie Tonneson.
- Reviewed the Twin Cities campus plan.
- Approved nominations for the University of Minnesota Foundation Board of Trustees.
- Received an overview of the implementation plan for the Positioned for Excellence, Alignment and Knowledge (PEAK) Initiative, a systemwide effort to identify opportunities across non-academic functions to increase efficiency or gain capacity to advance the University’s teaching, research and outreach mission.
- Began a series of discussions on diversity, equity and inclusion work on each of the University’s five campuses, with Dr. Michael Goh, vice president for equity and diversity, presenting about the Twin Cities campus.
The Board of Regents is scheduled to meet next on Dec. 16-17, 2021. Visit regents.umn.edu for more information.