Northwestern to begin partnership with new food service provider in fall


Christopher Vazquez/Daily Senior Staffer

Foster Walker West Dining Hall. Compass Group will service all residential and retail dining operations starting this fall.

Alan Perez, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern announced Friday a new partnership with one of the largest food service management companies in the United States, ending long-standing relationships with two other leading providers.

Compass Group North America, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, will assume food service operations across the Evanston and Chicago campuses in the fall, according to a Northwestern news release. The change aims to transform the food and dining experience by partnering with a single company to provide university-wide service, the release said.

The announcement ends a comprehensive review process that began last fall, in which a committee of administrators sought bids from several companies, including Sodexo and Aramark, the two current main providers for Northwestern. The extended review included input from students, staff and faculty, said Jim Konrad — the executive director of procurement and payment services who facilitated the process — in the release.

“It was a challenging process, and we are confident this is the best fit for the University,” he said. “We are very excited to partner with Compass Group to create a premier dining experience across our campuses.”

The company scored highest in key process steps, including initial proposal quality, a focus group and a tasting event, according to the University release. Compass’ plan emphasized high-quality food, fair wages, sustainability strategies and local vendor partnerships, the release said. Additionally, Compass agreed to add new technologies like mobile ordering and delivery in coming years.

Six of its subsidiaries will take over residential and retail dining, vending and athletics concessions, according to the release. Northwestern spokesman Jon Yates told The Daily in an email that more information will come in the following weeks about retail and dining option changes, though he added that the University will implement a variety of Compass brands in the following months.

“Compass will bring fresh, new flavors to the Northwestern campus,” he said. “They cook from scratch, menu by season, source locally and will bring a variety of authentic dining experiences to the students at Northwestern.”

The transition will be “complex,” Yates said, though NU also expects it to be smooth because the vendors are experienced and “very professional.”

The shift will also include the incorporation of existing food service workers; Yates said they will all be asked to join Compass, though he did not specify whether Northwestern’s contract with Compass required this. Food service workers will receive the same pay, benefits and seniority through the new provider, Yates said.

Despite the assurances, however, some workers are worried about job security and the transition process.

Victoria Scheerer (Weinberg ’11) of UNITE HERE Local 1, the union that represents many of the University’s food service workers, said many feel they are part of the Northwestern community and not just Sodexo employees. Some are also worried about possible “heightened scrutiny” from the transition, especially with those involved in the union, Scheerer said.

Veronica Reyes, a food service worker in the Foster-Walker dining hall who has worked at NU for eight years, said she is happy with whatever provides the best experience for students, but that the process could be “very inconvenient.”

“We’re the same employees. We’re working for the same people,” she said. “We love our job. … If the change is good for you guys, we are more than happy to take it, but please don’t make us do the paperwork again.”

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