After studying the situation for more than a year, UK officials are ready to move ahead with a plan to privatize on campus dining services.
University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto Friday said contract negotiations are beginning with Aramark to create a “public-private partnership for dining that has the potential to transform this vital service for our students and the larger community we serve.”
“We have the opportunity to improve service, provide healthier food at lower cost to our students, invest millions in facilities and enhance our commitment to locally sourced food,” Capilouto said Friday in announcing the contract negotiations to the UK Board of Trustees. “Much like a public-private partnership has revitalized our approach to residence halls and the living and learning environment, we can now build a national model for dining services and its impact on our students and the Commonwealth.”
"A proposed public-private partnership in dining offers the opportunity for even more transformative change throughout the campus through healthier options, more convenient options and hours, and more cost-effective pricing of plans," said Britt Brockman, chair of the UK Board of Trustees. "It underscores through what has been a transparent and comprehensive process how we are working on this campus to put students first. Our board is excited about the potential of this partnership as well as the opportunity to consider the continued revitalization of our campus infrastructure as part of enhancing this critically important service."
“Aramark is honored that the University of Kentucky is recommending us for this innovative partnership,” said Mark Nelson, president of Aramark’s Higher Education business. “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with UK Dining’s employees to transform the student experience and environment, and we look forward to supporting the Kentucky Proud program and the College of Agriculture to expand local sourcing, sustainability and nutrition and wellness initiatives on campus.”
Specifically, Capilouto said contract negotiations with Aramark would begin immediately, with the goal of executing a contract this summer. Key principles that both UK and Aramark want to achieve, include:
· Retaining existing dining services employees as of February 2013 as UK employees. That includes 107 current dining employees.
· Increasing the annual investment in the Kentucky Proud program and local purchases, which currently totals $1 million annually and $800,000 respectively.
· Executing a long-term contract that would include the investment of tens of millions of dollars in renovation of existing facilities and construction of new facilities to improve access to dining and the quality of service. Construction and renovation of facilities greater than $600,000 would be subject to approval by the Board of Trustees.
· Lowering the cost of current UK dining plans and providing more flexible meal plan options.
· Creating a Food Institute run in partnership with the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, which would include internship programs and a student scholarship endowment ― all total, a seven-figure investment in the study of food in a scholarly context.
· Enhancing the commitment to sustainability, nutrition and wellness with the hiring of a full-time sustainability coordinator and dietician as well as investments in wellness programs and education initiatives.
· Creating strict measurements of performance and customer satisfaction.
If a contract is successfully executed, its details will be made public in keeping with the institution’s commitment to a transparent and comprehensive process, said Eric Monday, UK’s executive vice president for finance and administration.
Aramark currently partners with more than 1,000 colleges, universities, K-12 and preparatory schools across the country. The company employs approximately 2,500 people at a variety of businesses, municipalities, and education and health care institutions in the Commonwealth.
UK has been assessing dining service options for more than a year. Three committees ― with representation from faculty, staff and the student body ― have studied the issue. Three campus-wide forums have been held, and numerous meetings have been held with dining services employees throughout the process.
“This review process has been as exhaustive and inclusive as the process to build a public-private partnership for residence halls,” Monday said. “That partnership has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in technology-infused residence halls that are improving the living and learning capacity of our student body. With dining services, we have the same opportunity. We have outstanding employees, who will continue their important work with us. We now can create a partnership that provides the opportunity to improve every facet of what we do in this critically important service in ways that benefit our students as well as the community and state beyond our campus.”
In 2011, UK announced a partnership with EdR, a publicly traded company based in Memphis, to construct and manage the university’s residence hall system. By August 2014, 2,982 new beds will have been constructed, creating 4,400 direct and indirect jobs and representing $163 million in investment in a revitalized housing system.