By Kai Vieira da Rosa
Whatcom Community College closed the proposal window for a new contract with on-campus food services on Friday, May 5.
Whatcom Community College put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) on April 10, 2017. A RFP is used in instances in which a need for a service is established, and a clear outline of management is needed.
The RFP allows consultants from each bidder to submit ideas that will benefit the dining areas.
Nathan Langstraat, Vice President for Administration Purposes and a group of board members will come together and agree on a desired food service will be chosen by June 9, start September 1, and will be in action until August 31, 2022.
“We have a review team in place that includes a cross section of stakeholders including a couple of students,” Langstraat said. “We will go through an evaluation scoring process and then at the end of that make a decision.”
Langstraat said Sodexo has been serving the school for over a decade now, but it is time to look for a change
“There are a couple different reasons,” Langstraat said. “A RFP is pretty standard after you run a contract for five to ten years out of diligence to make sure the state is getting the best deal.”
“The Sodexo contract was up for review last year, but we extended that one more year, now it’s time for the RFP.”
In this upcoming five year span Whatcom will be seeing some changes in food sold on campus.
“It could be anything,” Langstraat said. “It could be more local sourcing, it could be working with our current provider to negotiate different options and services for our students.”
Within these changes Whatcom students will see the completion of The Phyllis & Charles Self Learning Commons in 2019. This building will add another area for students to eat.
“As for the new building, it will have a nice food service cafe in it, whoever our provider is will have the first right to provide their service there,” Langstraat said.
Presently, there are three food service locations on the Whatcom campus: Dockside Café, Orca Bay Café, and Kulshan Coffee Cart. These three food locations are not all created equal.
Orca Bay Cafe only received 7 percent of the total customers in the past year while Dockside Café gets 79 percent and the Kulshan Coffee Cart 14 percent.
The gap in equality will be a focus in the food department the next five years.
“I think the number one priority is trying to figure out from a student perspective why. Is it the price point, is it what’s being served? I believe all of that can be addressed through the RFP process and negotiations,” Langstraat said.
Langstraat said he is aware the locations on Whatcom’s campus are disproportionate and stretched out. Getting a quick snack in between classes can be a struggle due to the poor layout and minimal choices.
“I do think once we open the new building in a couple years, that will be when we close the Kulshan Coffee Cart, because we won’t need two food services so close to each other,” Langstraat said. “For new locations, the main provider will always have the first right to new locations, but if they don’t want to, then we will look for a bid for just that location.”
Langstraat said quick food possibilities like trucks and carts are a possibility.
“There are several ways to do that, some campuses for example, only bring in trucks, but they run it through their food service management and they organize when the trucks will be there,” Langstraat said. “Or it can be managed separately, if the contract does not exclude somebody else. Although most services ask for exclusivity on the campus.”
Contracts are now being reviewed and processed. By June 9, 2017 the board members will come to a decision.