UTM has officially launched its search for a new campus food services provider, to begin its operations after the current agreement with Chartwells expires this year.

Last Monday, UTM posted a Request for Proposal on MERX, a website designed to connect businesses to contract opportunities. Candidates are to submit proposals for the future management and operation of campus food services at UTM.

The RFP outlines the conditions that UTM requires its future food services operator to meet, and includes requirements based on feedback on current food service collected from various campus stakeholders.

Earlier this year, UTM gathered feedback on its food services through town halls, focus groups, and surveys. Among the item described in the RFP are the hours of operation of the food services on campus.

The RFP requires a minimum hours of operation that “adequately meet student and client needs”, including those of residence students, commuters from Sheridan, and others.

The minimum hours of operation on residence means that the dining kitchen at Colman Commons will be open daily from 7:30 a.m. to midnight.

Students have also complained about the lack of variety of food. According to the RFP, the operator will have to “develop and implement programs that offer variety in menu offering and price point, ensure a wide range of healthy options are available and address the needs for ethnic diversity”, including halal, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and other needs.

Other changes mentioned in the proposal include the permanent food court that is to be built in Davis in the future, replacing the TFC. The university would have the right to select the branded venues in the new permanent food court.

Although the RFP calls for a “non-exclusive contract” with the successful food provider, UTM is looking to enter into an agreement with only one supplier.

“Because we currently have the Blind Duck and vending services, and we will be opening the market to new catering providers in a separate RFP, we can’t call this RFP exclusive,” said Vicky Jezierski, director of Hospitality & Retail Services at UTM.

“We also want to make sure that the Food Truck program is ongoing and, although the program is organized by the provider, food trucks are not operated by the food services provider but by independent operators.”

Other objectives included high-quality food, high standards of nutrition, having the price of branded food reflect “street-level pricing”, and the ability to provide financial return to the food provider and the university.

The proposal must also seek to increase “customer satisfaction” at UTM.

As for catering, UTM will choose “preferred suppliers”, which Jezierski said would be done through a separate RFP but was not specific about when.

“Our selected food supplier will have the rights to provide catering services without submitting a second RFP proposal but will be one of possibly many providers of this service, depending on the outcome of the RFP,” she said.

The new food service provider will also be responsible for its own losses. Last year, a heavily redacted copy of UTM’s contract with Chartwells revealed that the food service provider was receiving financial assistance from the university due to “financial difficulties”.

The RFP also states that the agreement between UTM and the successful proponent would be made into a public document.

Once proposals have been submitted and evaluated, the university will interview at least the top two candidates. UTM said it will not consider proposals that would require significant changes to campus infrastructure or construction.

The term of the agreement with the proponent will be for five years, like the current one, and the university will have the option to extend the agreement on the same terms and conditions for an additional three one-year terms based on the provider’s performance and other requirements.

Prospective candidates are to visit UTM on January 16.