University sticks by Aramark

The Terrace food court, which used to be under WLUSU, is now under the operation of Aramark (Photo by Nick Lachance).

An article recently published by the Toronto Star reported that Ryerson University has been footing the bill for expenses incurred by Aramark Canada, the university’s contracted food service, which is the same that Wilfrid Laurier University’s food services uses. According to the article, over the last five years Ryerson has covered more than $5.6 million in losses causing students to call for change. News of this may set off alarms in the heads of students at Laurier: could the same situation arise here?

Dan Dawson, assistant vice president of student services, assured that he doesn’t “foresee anything that would evolve [at Laurier] like what is happening [at Ryerson].” With the implementation of the new meal plan this past September, Laurier’s contract with Aramark has changed and appears to be different than Ryerson’s.

“In the environment we’re in currently, the relationship is pretty clearly defined as to what costs and responsibilities Aramark has and what Laurier has,” explained Dawson.
“The revenue is captured — a percentage of sales is paid to Laurier as a commission and we are responsible for certain types of expenses to the facilities available and operational for food service.”

According to Jim Butler, vice president of finance and administration, Aramark’s financial performance is reviewed annually.

He explained that the contract with Aramark is “an opportunity for [Dawson’s office] to enhance the financial situation for food services, which has been operating at a loss for the last number of years.”

Dawson and Ryan Lloyd-Craig, director of food services, meet monthly to review the financial operations to ensure everything is on track.
Dawson went on to comment that, in addition to the different contract, the campuses at Ryerson and Laurier function dissimilarly.

“It may have nothing to do with Aramark,” he said.

“There may be conditions at Ryerson that just make it a very challenging account for anybody to be successful at.”

Laurier is different from Ryerson as it has a meal plan that is required for all residence students, has less off-campus food options and many student employees.

“I think that Aramark does the best job that they can in terms of providing food for students on campus. But there’s always room for improvement,” said Micahel Onabolu, president of the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union, who handed over operations of the Terrace Food Court to Aramark in the summer of 2011.

According to Onabolu, WLUSU engages in consistent dialogue with Aramark to ensure student concerns are being addressed and rectified.

In response to student concerns, Dawson said that he has seen changes already being implemented, such as an increase in protein in the Fresh Food Company.
Onabolu expressed that WLUSU is very interested in the feedback students have about food services, particularly with the change to the meal plan.

“It’s a lot more informed perspective and it’s very useful going forward,” he said, referring to the feedback they will receive now, versus at the beginning of the year.

“Because we can say that students have tried it: this is what they do like and this is what they don’t like.”
In a survey already completed by students in residence Dawson emphasized that “their overall satisfaction levels were much higher than they were a year ago.”

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