As part of the process of selecting a new vendor to operate the House Dining program, teams of students, faculty housemasters and staff have been traveling to other universities to examine their dining operations.
Earlier this month, site-visit teams drawn from the dining Evaluation Committee traveled to review food service operations at the University of Pennsylvania, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. Also on the schedule are visits to local schools, including Boston University, Emmanuel College and Roger Williams University.
Three companies — Aramark, Sodexho and Bon Appetit — have responded to MIT’s request for proposal (RFP) to implement the new meal program in Maseeh Hall, Baker, McCormick, Next and Simmons. The teams are visiting schools where these vendors currently operate in order to help evaluate which will be the best fit for the Institute.
“Seeing the vendor’s actual locations and talking to the students has been the most informative part of the process,” said sophomore Michael Plasmeier, a student committee member from Baker House. “They can say anything on paper, but do the students think that they are delivering day in, day out?”
During the visits, the students, faculty and staff do more than just sample the food — although they do eat a meal in a dining hall. The groups attempt to get a comprehensive view of the dining operations across each campus by touring facilities, talking to the university staff that work with the dining vendors, and meeting and hearing from students who eat the food every day. Different committee members also have their own priorities for what they hope to learn from the visits.
"Visiting the sites of various vendors allowed me to get a first-hand look at the relationships between the vendors and the students,” said senior Christina Johnson, president of DormCon and a Simmons resident. “I believe that communication is very important between the vendors and their student customers, so having the opportunity to observe this communication process in action was important to me."
The Evaluation Committee, which includes students and housemasters representing all five dining hall residences, is currently evaluating the three companies vying to serve as MIT’s vendor for House Dining. The review is aimed at ensuring the chosen vendor can meet the goals of the new MIT meal plan, including broader choices, better health and nutrition, community building and financial stability.
Each vendor has submitted a written proposal and has made a presentation to the Evaluation Committee on campus. The site visits are one of the last steps in the evaluation process.
“We want the students, faculty and other committee members to see an array of dining operations at other schools,” said Rich Berlin, director of Campus Dining at MIT. “These visits really help the committee see how a company handles food preparation and quality, cleanliness, service and other aspects of a dining program that will be critical to our success at MIT.”