Dalhousie SUB Food Services: Time for a major rethink

On December 1st, the DSU Council will be voting on the future of our food services agreement, and may cede control to the University. What we will be exchanging is an exclusive, but autonomous setup with an exclusive, but University-run setup. The debate over this is reaching a fever-pitch, as it rightly should. Here’s my $0.02.

As a councilor on the DSU Council, I have a say in what we will get. I hope that you take the time to write a bit on here so I can hear what the students really want. At the end of the day, any notion that the University requires full control of the SUB’s food services in order to expand the building is ludicrous. The RFP for Aramark, Sodexho, Chartwells, and anyone else who may want to bid can state clearly the areas that need to be serviced, ie the residence-style cafeteria proposed for the SUB, but not the Grawood or the area currently referred to as “The Market.”

When we overhaul the SUB, why don’t we build it like a mall food court, comprising a number of independently-leasable kiosks complete with a kitchen. We could rent these out on multi-year (three or five) terms, and allow a variety of businesses to set up shop. Maybe Creperie Mobile will rent one of them. Maybe we’ll give one to groups like the Loaded Ladle, the proposed new local, vegan soup kitchen cooperative.

What about the money? The DSU currently pulls in about $300,000 per year from our exclusivity deals with Sodexho and Pepsi. If we were to reconfigure our space like a mall food court, we would simply charge rent to the providers, bringing in a similar amount of revenue. Rent would be based on comparisons with similar markets, as it should be in any business environment.

As Jason Loxton, a UBC graduate currently studying at Dal rightly points out, the most popular options are the Dawgfather and Tim Horton’s, because they’re quicker and cheaper than the Sodexho and Aramark services (the three Tim’s locations on campus are run by Sodexho and Aramark, depending on location). We can compete with the quality and cost of any University food court. The DSU could choose to run all the food kiosks ourselves, setting up a pizzeria, sushi bar, salad bar, whatever, or contract them out individually to interested businesses. We could choose to only rent to businesses that are local & organic, that’s really up to us, so long as it’s publicly known that bids on the kiosks have those requirements.

The plan for the University to swap crap for crap is insulting to students, and will continue to keep choice out of our grasp. We want tasty, healthy, cheap food. This can be provided by corporations, or small local businesses, but so long as we retain the current format & exclusivity arrangements, we will never have that luxury.

I’m in favour of expanding the SUB and reconfiguring the food services area, but not the raw deal the University is proposing. What are your thoughts? How should we vote, and what do you want out of our food services?

(This is also in response to the Dal Gazette’s Streeter Question)

3 thoughts on “Dalhousie SUB Food Services: Time for a major rethink

  1. Hey Ben
    Opinion from emotion/experience: Yes. Do this. Please don’t let Dr. Neuman screw over students any more than she already has. The worst possible thing the DSU could allow to happen would be given the university one iota of control within the SUB.

    Opinion from reason: Yes. Do this. Even if the DSU takes in less money in the process. When the CS Society started the occasional free snack give away from our society desk, I had multiple students tell me it was the only thing any student organization had ever done that they liked. Offering the possibility of a competitive food service environment, where cheap/fast/healthy meals can be acquired is possibly the single best thing the DSU could do for students.

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