College food service in the running for replacement
Food options at the college cafeteria and cafe could be changing, as the current five-year food contract is running out. Central Oregon Community College is starting to look at other options as its provider, Sodexo, may not be chosen next year.
In the summer of 2009, COCC signed up with Sodexo when the food service provided a winning bid over the previous provider, High Desert Food Service. Now, the current food supplier only has a little while to continue, according to Herb Baker, the food service director at COCC.
“It’s going to be running out at the end of this [school] year,” Baker said. “Right now we’re looking at future options.”
Sodexo may continue with the college, but for now, potential replacements are being discussed. The college put out a request for information to see what options are available, said Julie Mosier, the purchasing coordinator for COCC.
“As of July first, we will need to have a new contract,” Mosier said. “It’s an open solicitation, so any food company can submit a proposal. We issued on the 17th and it’s scheduled to close on the 26th.”
Already, several food services are expected to be in the running. Bon Appétit and several other small food entities around Central Oregon provide services that might outbid Sodexo. As of now, at least two other food services are expected to bid against the current provider.
The competition is healthy, according to Baker.
“When it’s a publicly-owned entity they have to put things out for bid to make it fair for everybody,” Baker said.
The expiration of the current contract could open new doors, according to Mosier.
“The point of an open solicitation is to allow all the vendors to have the opportunity to show what they can do,” Mosier said.
A changing cafeteria provider could impact the future of the campus’ net benefits. With the current Sodexo contract, COCC is in a profit-and-loss position. While this means that the food service agrees to run the cafeteria and coffee shop with pre-existing conditions, there are also downsides, according to Baker. Busy school days net a larger benefit, but holidays and summertime are costly to the campus. Though only the coffee shop is kept open for summertime food options, it can still negate the benefits of a busy rush.
Price-wise, the current system can be concerning, according to Baker.
“This is very thin ice, as far as making profits,” Baker said. “Being closed one day can put us in the red.”
While COCC is still in the midst of receiving replies from the initial request for information, a process is being developed for the future. In February, the college will be collecting the information of interested parties, then asking questions and receiving bids.
The college has strict guidelines to find the new provider, Baker explained.
“It’s bidding that explains, ‘This is what we want done, these are the rules, this is what we have, this is what you’re going to have to pay for,'” Baker said. “The food service companies come up with something they think would be good, and the college decides which one they’d rather go for.”
The competitors will only have a few months to submit their bids before the approved food service is announced. COCC plans to send award notices at the end of March, and the Board of Directors will have an opportunity to voice their support or opposition in the April meeting.
While this does leave room for change in both the system and the services of COCC’s cafeteria and cafe, Mosier believes it is important to consider other food options.
“I don’t have any expectations to what’s going to happen, but my hope is that we get several proposals,” Mosier said. “It will end up being whoever has the best proposal.”