Southeast Awards Dining Services Contract to Chartwells

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Feb. 6, 2006 — Southeast Missouri State University today announced the award of a dining services contract to Chartwells Educational Dining Services, a division of the Compass Group.

Chartwells has served as the University’s dining services provider since June 1999. The current seven-year contract is scheduled to expire May 31. Under terms of the new contract, Chartwells will continue to provide dining and catering services for the University beginning June 1, 2006, to May 2016, providing the University exercises its option to annually renew the contract.

Last summer, the University established a 20-member evaluation committee including students, staff and administrators, to prepare a dining services request for proposal (RFP). The RFP was issued Oct. 14. Bids were closed Dec. 12. Two vendors, Chartwells Educational Dining Services and Sodexho Campus Services, submitted proposals.

The committee evaluated the proposals with points awarded for cost, expertise and reliability. The committee unanimously agreed to recommend Chartwells to Southeast President Kenneth W. Dobbins and the Board of Regents.

“Throughout the process, students said flexibility and affordability were priorities. They expressed this to members of the committee and directly to vendors during onsite meetings in November,” said Dr. Debbie Below, director of Enrollment Management. Below, who manages the dining contract for the University, said Chartwells clearly listened to students and addressed their concerns.

Board plan students can expect several enhancements in the coming year.

“Students will realize much more value for their dollar,” said Tim Weatherly, resident district manager of Chartwells. “The 10-year contract period allowed our company the flexibility to offer students a more affordable plan.”

In 2006-2007, some meal plans will slightly increase in cost, while others will be reduced. However, the average increase to students will be just 0.1 percent. Chartwells is limited to a maximum increase of five percent over the next two years, which equates to  an average of two and one-half percent annually.

“We looked at the proposals and evaluated them on several different factors, including cost, flexibility and options,” said Student Government President Adam Hanna, who served on the evaluation committee. “Going into this process, we were very intent on getting more flexibility in our meal plan. I think students will be very pleased with all the options they will have. We pushed for a second alternative, but it was at a very high cost. With this plan, we got a really good deal for a very low cost. I think Chartwells did a great job with their proposal. It’s going to be a big gain for most students.”

Leann Walther, Residence Hall Association president and a student member of the evaluation committee, said, “I am excited that Chartwells will be awarded the Dining Services contract. Since Chartwells has already operated on our campus, they are more aware of students’ wants and needs. With this contract, students will see quality food at a reasonable price along with more flexibility.”

Below said, “Students are going to be thrilled to learn about significant changes in the value exchange program.” 

For example, the lunch and dinner value exchange rate for board plan students will increase from $4.25 to $5, or 15 percent. Additionally, every meal that goes unused by a student during the week will be converted to $1.90 in flex dollars at the end of the week, she said. The meal-to-flex conversion dollars will remain on the student’s account for the semester. Any meal-to-flex conversion dollars left at the end of a semester will not roll to the next semester. The average student uses about 80 percent of their meals during the year. The new meal-to-flex conversion program will give the average board plan student an additional $150 annually, Below said.

Restrictions on the use of value exchange also have been reduced. Currently value exchange customers are limited to purchasing one bottled beverage per exchange. This restriction will be eliminated when the new contract period begins. Chartwells also has agreed to offer at least three lunch and dinner options priced at or below the value exchange rate for board plan students in the major retail venues, including the University Center Café Court, Skylight Terrace and Rowdy’s. Retail pricing increases are limited to five percent for the coming year due to increased food and labor costs.

The new dining contract provides the University with an interest-free capital investment of $3 million to maintain, improve, and renovate existing dining and catering facilities, Below said. Among the projects planned include a renovated servery and outdoor seating area for Rowdy’s; an improved tray return system for Towers Café; a large-scale renovation in the University Center, including Café Court, the convenience store, the Beanery, the south dining room, and the fourth floor meeting rooms; upgrades to Towers Café, and Scully Café; and the addition of small cafés in Robert A. Dempster Hall and the River Campus. The University and Chartwells are currently discussing the timeline for these initiatives.

“Students will be heavily involved in these capital projects,” Below said. “We are currently soliciting student participation from members of the Dining Services Advisory Committee, Student Government Association and the Residence Hall Association.

“A capital investment fund is essential to sustaining a quality university dining program,” Below said. “The fund is used to upgrade facilities and maintain a regular replacement schedule for food production equipment, tables and chairs, flooring and other fixtures. The University operates eight residential and retail dining areas on campus. This fund will be used to sustain these facilities through the duration of the 10-year contract period.”

About $150,000 of the capital investment fund will be used to update the information system used by Chartwells to manage board plan, flex, and Redbuck account balances. Once upgraded, the system is expected to integrate fully with the University’s new information system, Banner, and the portal. This upgrade is schedule for summer 2006.

Throughout the last seven-year contract period, students and the University have benefited from a successful partnership with Chartwells. The partnership has resulted in better food, more choices, and multiple new and renovated facilities, all while maintaining a competitively priced board plan for students, Below said. Through this partnership the University has added additional dining venues including the University Center’s Skylight Terrace, Beanery and Convenience Store, the Scully Café, and most recently, the Kent Library Coffee Cart. Major renovation initiatives have included Towers Café, the University Center’s Café Court and patio entrance, and Rowdy’s.

During the last seven years, major improvements to the board plan have included addition of Saturday dining service for South campus students, extension of value exchange usage to 8 p.m., addition of flex dollars to meal plans to make retail venues more affordable, and expansion of flex dollar use in any dining or retail venue, anytime, without limitations.

Since 2001, the average cost of tuition and required fees at four-year public colleges and universities in Missouri has risen by 49 percent, due in large part to decreases in state funding. Incidental and general fees at Southeast for this same period have risen 46 percent, placing an increased financial strain on college students and their families.

Thanks to the University’s sound partnership with Chartwells, board plan costs increased by an average of just two percent annually during the last five years. Simultaneously, on campus dining by commuter students, faculty and staff increased significantly. Non-board plan retail sales grew 19 percent in 2004, 27 percent in 2005 and 33 percent to date in 2006.

Chartwells also operates contracted dining services at several regional universities including the University of Missouri campuses in St. Louis and Rolla, St. Louis University, and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.