Sodexo and other company present competing visions for Mason Dining

(Images courtesy of Chartwells and Sodexo)
(Images courtesy of Chartwells and Sodexo)

Two dining companies, Sodexo and Chartwells, gave bid presentations on Dec. 5 outlining each company’s vision for the dining future they would offer at George Mason University.

Dining contracts last five years, and include a renewal option at the end of agreement. Sodexo’s contract expires this January.

Mason’s University Services sent out a request for proposals to each company prior to their presentations. The information included in this request outlined the goals and philosophy of the college.

According to Mark Kraner, the executive director of campus retail operations, Any Time Dining, which focuses on providing food at all hours of the day and sustainability were major focuses of both Sodexo’s and Chartwells’s presentations.

“Any Time Dining is a major part of this contract and how that will alter the campus community,” Kraner said in an email.

Any Time Dining is a program Mason Dining Services has planned for 2014 in which two new dining facilities and Southside will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Shenandoah Dining Commons is scheduled to open fall 2014 and Aquia Dining Commons for fall 2017. Stipulations of the request for proposals were that Mason Dining would begin offering these two new resident dining options and that each company present ideas on how to operate and manage the dining locations for 24 hours.

Sodexo has been working with Mason for 25 years as of December 2012.  Although the name has changed over the years, the company has remained the same. Sodexo’s Any Time Dining proposals would resemble Southside’s all-you-can-eat setup and would cater to the surrounding neighborhoods.

The three Any Time Dining locations would be focused on world cuisines and emphasize health and wellness as well as sustainability. Sodexo estimates that by 2015, 25 percent of all food on campus will be purchased locally, which they define as within a 250-mile radius.

Sodexo also said at their presentation to Mason officials that over the course of the contract they would replace the Jazzman’s Café in the Johnson Center with Argo Tea, and La Patisserie with Au Bon Pain, while also putting in a Chipotle, Wow Bao and Guy Fieri On Campus in the Johnson Center food court.

Chartwells, the dining company competing with Sodexo for the contract, presented a different idea of Mason dining’s future. Like Sodexo, Chartwells said they envision the Any Time Dining locations to be cafeteria style as well. However, the company’s version of Southside, Pulse On Dining, would aim to make all dining options the destination spot for students to go at night for food and socializing.

Sustainability also plays into Chartwells’ plan for the university. Chartwell estimates that by 2014, 25 percent of all food on campus will be purchased locally, which they define as within a 150-mile radius. Chartwells, like Sodexo, has envisioned Mason with more retail dining options.

At the presentation, Chartwell representatives said over the course of the contract they would replace Pilot House with Denny’s All Nighter, Gold Rush with Sono (latin cuisine), Original Burger Co. with UNO Chicago Grill, Jazzman’s Café in Student Union Building I with Dunkin’ Donuts, and replace the JC Jazzman’s with another on-campus Starbucks.

Kraner said it is estimated that over the course of 10 years, the value of the contract is between $350 and $400 million.

Mason’s negotiations to work out the specifics and the concerns for the future contract between either Sodexo or Chartwells are underway. Kraner said that the bid presentations are a marketing project for the companies, and Mason has to negotiate with each company to ensure what they envisioned is possible.

The Dining Services Request for Proposals committee’s chief financial officer is expected to make a recommendation to the Board of Visitors by Jan. 30, 2013.

The new contract with the selected company will begin July 1, 2013.

C2M Deputy News Editor Frank Muraca contributed to this article.

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