Food service operator support

  • 1.  Food service operator support

    Posted 03-23-2020 16:18
    As most of higher-ed is feeling the wrath of Covid-19 with distance learning and working from home what support or concessions has anyone done in working with their contracted food service provider?

    Any feedback would be much appreciated. You can email me directly if you prefer.

    Thank you,

    John Meriano
    Quinnipiac University
    Hamden CT 06518

    John Meriano
    Quinnipiac University
    Assoc VP for Auxiliary Services
    Hamden CT
    United States

  • 2.  RE: Food service operator support

    Posted 03-26-2020 15:39
    Hello John,

    We are having the same issue. Have you had any response or decided what you will be doing?


    Mary Lieto,CASP
    Pace University
    Executive Director of Auxiliary Services
    New York, NY

  • 3.  RE: Food service operator support

    Posted 05-06-2020 19:23

    We are experiencing the same, and we have a contracted provider (CulinArt Group, Inc.) who charges us a management fee.  We requested that they consider options to lower the management fee, postpone the fee, etc...   They countered with a contract extension in exchange, but we declined.  If the amount of savings were more, this could be a reasonable option.  We are also carefully reviewing their monthly costs that cannot be suspended, such as POS fees, insurance fees, computer/phone lease fees.  We have asked them to itemize this for us.  Hope this helps!  Would love to know what you come up with.

    Jennifer Gray
    College Of Southern Nevada
    Director of Auxiliary Services
    North Las Vegas NV
    United States

  • 4.  RE: Food service operator support

    Posted 05-07-2020 11:47
    I'd love to hear more about this as well.  We are a private school in Los Angeles, but utilize Culinart for our foodservice operations and are currently looking at this situation.




    Scott Appel


    Auxiliary Services Manager

    Marlborough School

    250 S. Rossmore Avenue

    Los Angeles, CA 90004

    Tel: (323) 964-8434


    "A national leader in secondary education, Marlborough has been preparing young women for leadership and contribution since 1889."

  • 5.  RE: Food service operator support

    Posted 05-07-2020 13:10
    I have been considering what it would look like to provide a high-quality program with reduced labor and hours. Kind of like this:

    The decade: the late 1980's:

    The tattered, faded sign next to the entry of the dining hall lists the hours of service:

    Breakfast: 7 am – 8:30 am

    Lunch:11 am – 1 pm

    Dinner: 5:30 pm – 7 pm

    The food serving line at this small private university was tucked away in in a dimly lit hallway enclosed at each end by thick wooden doors. The utilitarian hot line featured four hot wells, each dedicated to a specific food: Meat entrée, vegetarian entrée, starch, and frozen vegetable du-jour. A low bank of 1950's era stainless pass-through food warmers stood behind the hot line, half the doors of which had lost any meaningful functionality: The facilities team had long since given up the search for replacement hinges in this pre-Google era.

    The 200-seat dining area was decorated in a spartan fashion, the University colors nowhere to be found. 18' high brick walls surrounded the dining room on three sides alixyr featured several coats of battleship gray semi-gloss. Adjacent to a two-spigot Silver King milk dispenser stood variations of "Bug Juice", a hand-mixed elixir consisting of powdered punch and lemonade served in bubbling Crathco dispensers we still see today. Attempts at décor included dust-fuzz encrusted mason jars and vases layered with a variety of dried beans and various strands of artificial plant life. Long banks of semi-operable florescent fixtures spanned the length of the high ceiling in the dining room casting a hue of light that was just short of natural.

    This was a time when one could effectively manage the dining program with a supervisor, a handful of cooks, a baker, and a large group of dedicated student employees. Most nights, dinner preparation was completed by the professional staff long before the doors opened, giving rise to the term "cook and park". Student workers would arrive before the dinner hour to serve the food, wipe the tables, and wash the dishes. The length of time the food sat in the warmer prior to service was directly related to the social calendar or mood of the dinner cook.

    This was a time when athletics programs had an symbiotic relationship with dining services. Coaches and dining managers worked closely together to teach student athletes various life lessons using shifts in the dishroom as a form of punishment and free food as a reward. The dining manager was a mentor, counselor, and confidant to these student athletes.

    Meal plan costs were relatively low, as was the quality, variety, and hours of service.

    Incoming students began to demand dining experiences similar to those found in the food courts at the local shopping mall. Administrators recognized this shift in expectations and began to invest heavily in their dining facilities in order to maintain a competitive edge. They looked to dining operators for innovation, who responded with the rapid development of a variety of highly creative and culinary-centric programs. Implementation of these programs required ongoing training and a high level of culinary expertise. Just-in-time food preparation became the norm, and dining programs using the old-school "cook and park" techniques became the laughing stock of the industry. As time went on, a rise in demand for quality and authenticity organically grew as we expanded service hours and product variety. The bar continued to rise rapidly, as did the costs of a quality dining program an institution could be proud of.

    Today, our incoming students want to know what is in the food they are eating, where their food is coming from, and what is being done with food waste. This presents itself in the proliferation of GMO concerns, a heightened awareness of hunger, and the demand for more "local" food and pre-consumer composting programs. Operators continue to evolve their programs to meet these evolving demands. At a cost.

    I wonder if there is an institution out there willing to take the risk of reducing cost attendance by exploring this old-school approach with a more quality-centric focus?

    Aaron Neilson
    Director, Dining Services
    California State Polytechnic University - Pomona

    Pomona CA

    (909) 869-2788

  • 6.  RE: Food service operator support

    Posted 05-08-2020 09:38

    Thank you for the walk down memory lane. I remember those days, so imagine my response when I entered this industry 11 years ago and I learned that college dining program now served restaurant-quality food. WHAT?! Where was this when I was in college? My experience was much more like what you discussed - mixed with a little bit of Adam Sandler's Lunch Lady. (That's life in Upper Michigan, folks!)

    While going back to the good ol' days is appealing to the financial side of the Covid-19 situation the impact it is having on campus dining, I don't think today's students are quite ready to buy into that. However, you are most definitely on to something with reduced variety and a reduced staffing model.

    I will share that we have done some extensive scenario planning to be ready to take on fall semester. We are doing away with most - if not all - self-service for the sake of safety, and we are reducing the number of options available at each station (i.e. limiting variety). What do students ask for most from their dining program? MORE VARIETY! However, Food Management recently published the results of a survey indicating that students "generally seem more likely to be willing to sacrifice food variety to get contactless transactions, and less likely to sacrifice speed of service." I've attached a link to the article below.

    In summary, Aaron, it seems that today's students understand the need to sacrifice something; I'm just not convinced they'd be willing do a time warp. :-) Hope this helps. But none of us will know how successful our approaches are until we actually get to see them in action. Best wishes to all of you as you gear up for fall semester 2020.

    Nutrislice college student survey finds concerns about safely accessing campus dining when schools reopen

    Valerie Vander Berg
    Creative Dining Services
    (616) 308-9984

  • 7.  RE: Food service operator support

    Posted 05-08-2020 10:38
    Hi Valerie,

    Excellent points in regards to preferred trade-offs! Thanks for sharing that article.

    Aaron Neilson
    Director, Dining Services
    California State Polytechnic University - Pomona

    Pomona CA

    (909) 869-2788