UTM has asked Chartwells to extend its contract for another year,
Chartwells’ contract with UTM, originally set to expire in April, will likely be extended for a year, according to UTM’s chief administrative officer Paul Donoghue at last Thursday’s meeting of the Food Services Advisory Committee.
Originally, a request for a proposal (RFP) for contractor bids was set to be put out last fall in preparation for a July 2014 takeover following 10 years of a contract with Chartwells that the university decided not to automatically renew this year.
Those plans were shelved when UTM’s former director of hospitality and retail services, Bill McFadden, left UTM last August on an offer from McMaster.
The university asked two external specialists for estimates of the time required for an RFP and takeover, and found that it would have had to issue the request last November in order to secure a contractor in time for July.
In light of this, Donoghue requested a one-year extension of the Chartwells contract under the same terms.
“I expect a response at any time now,” said Donoghue, who said at the meeting that he expects Chartwells to agree to the extension, because the arrangement is profitable for them.
UTMSU VP external Melissa Theodore, who sits on the advisory committee, was unavailable to comment on the proposed extension.
Meanwhile, on March 10, UTM requested a proposal for consultants to prepare the RFP for contractors.
In a development that Donoghue called “unexpected” at the committee meeting, Vicky Jezierski, who replaced McFadden, requested two phases of consultation: the first to investigate the possibility of self-operated food service at UTM, and the second to help prepare the RFP for contractors if a self-op is found to be unfeasible.
Jezierski was formerly a district manager at Compass Group Canada—which owns Chartwells—and previously served as Chartwells’ general manager at UTM.
The responses to the call for consultants are expected by March 31, with appointments to be made by mid-April.
When asked about the university’s level of satisfaction with Chartwells’ service so far, Donoghue said that “there is always room for improvement”, noting that Chartwells has been working with UTM to improve its services for the past few years.
Donoghue said that an issue both parties have been working to address is the availability of space for food services, which has been partially resolved by using space in IB and the TFC. He also believes the completion of Deerfield Hall and the renovation of Coleman Commons will help.
Last week, Christine Capewell, UTM’s director of businesses services, commented on an amendment to the contract in which UTM agrees to provide “financial relief” to Chartwells in response to “financial difficulties” the food service provider is facing. She said that it allowed UTM to exert more control over Chartwells operations.
Donoghue was unable to clarify this any further, due to an appeal to the university’s decision to release the contract. He suggested that the amendment was added to address an “isolated difficulty” related to the contract.
Prior to Thursday’s meeting, Theodore told the Medium that UTSU was working to obtain the full contract, but was unable to confirm when the union expected this to happen.
Students have expressed dissatisfaction with Chartwells’ operation at UTM last year and especially this year. UTMSU is currently leading a social media and poster campaign through which students can complain about campus food using the hashtag #WTFUTMFOOD. Ryerson’s students’ union led a similar campaign last year to address its own campus food problems with Aramark, its own provider whom it was heavily subsidizing.
When asked, Donoghue called the campaign “disappointing”, stating that UTM regularly asks for input on campus food services and welcomes feedback, adding that the food advisory committees “meet regularly, take seriously all suggestions brought forward, and provides an excellent forum for exploration, discussion, and follow-up action”.
One instance of this action is the introduction of value meals following a suggestion by UTMSU at the end of last semester. At the committee meeting on Thursday, Theodore pressed for further expansion of the program.