A self-operated food service at UTM could lead to higher food prices, fewer options, and shorter hours of operation, according to a report by consultants hired by UTM over the summer.
UTM’s Food Service Advisory Committee met on August 7 to discuss the possibility of a self-op rather than the current contractual one. Ed Morano and David Purcell of Kaizen Consulting recommended that UTM retain its current model given the high costs associated with self-operation.
According to the report by the consultants, which is available online at the Hospitality and Retail Services website, under the current model UTM is expected to make a profit of $213,000 in 2015/16, but would instead run a deficit of $423,000 if it switched to a self-op. Most of this difference is accounted for by the fact that the revenue was projected to be exactly equivalent in both models, at $10,036,000, but the cost of sales and services was projected to be about $700,000 higher in self-op. Donoghue also said the transition itself from a contracted service to a self-op would carry a cost of $200,000–$300,000.
The second problem with self-operation is that the university would have to reduce its food service and shrink the hours of operation in order to try to break even.
Last July, UTMSU president Hassan Havili told The Varsity that UTM students would welcome the idea of an independently-run UTM food services system, while also noting students’ dissatisfaction with current food prices and options, especially compared to other universities. Havili was unavailable for further comment after the FSAC’s meeting.
Donoghue said that while he and the FSAC have been working to improve campus food service over the past three years, they still have a lot to do. Comparing UTM’s food service with those of other universities in Ontario, he noted that some universities deliberately price their meal plans very low so that they run out by November, leaving the students no choice but to go back and buy another.
“For the brands that are on UTM’s campus, the prices are exactly as they are outside, and this doesn’t happen in other campuses,” Donoghue added.
Meanwhile, the FSAC has taken several other actions to improve the food services at UTM. Vicky Jezierski, director of Hospitality and Retail Services at UTM, mentioned that in comparison with other universities, UTM probably has among the most operating hours per student. She also noted the committee’s efforts to further increase the hours of operation.
“The model we want to implement is to make sure the hours of operation are open from 7 a.m. till midnight because of the very different schedules of the students,” Jezierski said.
The new buildings constructed on campus have helped make some of the changes occur. The North Side Bistro inside Deerfield Hall will offer made-from-scratch soups, customized entrée salads, and flatbread pizzas. The menu will also feature vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options in addition to a coffee station.
Moreover, the Oscar Peterson Hall’s dining room, Colman Commons, has been completely redone. It will offer freshly squeezed juices, an extended salad bar, and a made-to-order menu. By January 2015, there will be a freshly steeped loose-leaf tea bar from Sloane Fine Tea Merchants and snacks that are to be available until midnight.
The Second Cup in Davis has been relocated to Kaneff with an expanded dessert menu, a wider selection of grab and go salads, meals, snacks and beverages, and pre-made fresh microwavable entrées.
Food trucks other than Mike’s Hot Dogs will be demoed on some Thursdays.
In the Temporary Food Court, there will be a vegetarian station added as of September 8.
Menus for all the operations, apart from the brands, have been diversified.
Meanwhile, the committee is planning on getting the students, staff, and faculty on campus more engaged in the discussion of UTM food service. There will be focus groups, surveys, and four open houses beginning soon. The first open house is expected to be held in the Student Centre at noon on September 25.