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Food service contract extended at UTM

Search for food provider to replace Chartwells to continue into June 2015
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Photo courtesy of the University of Toronto
Photo courtesy of the University of Toronto

UTM’s contract with Chartwells, the campus’ controversial food service provider, has been extended until June 2015. Current food services will operate without any changes for the next year.

Chartwells, a division of Compass Group Canada, has been providing food services to UTM since 2004, when it replaced Aramark. Students complain about high prices and low variety offered by the provider.

The contract with Chartwells was set to expire last April, opening up the possibility for more choice and variety at UTM.

In a UTM Food Service Advisory Committee meeting on March 13, 2014, chief administrative officer Paul Donoghue said that renewing the contract with Chartwells for five additional years would not be in the best interest of the campus.

According to Vicky Jezierski, director of hospitality and retail services at UTM, the contract was extended by one year to allow the Food Service Advisory Committee to evaluate other food service providers.

“We are currently working with our food services consultants to compile a comprehensive overview of our options,” said Jezierski, who formerly served as the general manager for Chartwells at UTM.

At the Food Service Advisory Committee meeting, Donoghue stated that a consultant would be sourced for a request for proposals (RFP) for a new food service provider. The consultant’s job will have two phases. Phase one consists of assessing the feasibility of a self-operated food service system. The results of phase one will determine whether the school will proceed to develop an internal action plan or release an RFP.

In 2009, UTM signed an amendment to Chartwells’ contract, agreeing to provide financial assistance to Chartwells due to losses.

Chartwells did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

The Chartwells contract has also been the target of a social media and poster campaign led by the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU) encouraging students to express their dissatisfaction with the hashtag #WTFUTMFOOD.

Hassan Havili, president of the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union (UTMSU), expressed cautious optimism that an independently-run UTM food services system would meet create more affordable, diverse food options.

“Many students at UTM are in favour of an independently-run UTM system that emphasizes food quality rather than profitability. The current food service model places too much emphasis on profit, because it is administered by a for-profit food service operator like Chartwells,” he said, adding: “UTM students want affordable, high quality food options that are culturally sensitive to our diverse needs.”

Havili also expressed concern over Chartwells catering restrictions. “The restriction puts student groups in a difficult situation because they cannot provide food from licensed vendors that are not affiliated with Chartwells, which monopolizes the provision of food services beyond our student centre.”

“We believe the current arrangement for UTM clubs/societies is counter-intuitive and contradicts the freedoms other student groups have at the St.George and UTSC campuses,” he added.

According to Havili, St. George campus organizations can choose from numerous food options in the surrounding neighbourhoods. UTSC campus organizations can purchase food from other food service companies, although they must adhere to certain provincial regulations. At that campus, student-run organizations are not permitted to serve homemade food.

A message at the bottom of the UTSC food safety page encourages campus organizations to consider Aramark, a Chartwells competitor, for on-campus catering.

As consultations continue for a new food services regime at UTM, two new Chartwells dining locations, North Site Bistro and Innovation Centre Café, are opening ahead of the upcoming school year.