This summer marked the end of a seven-year contract as Pierce’s food vendor for Chartwells. Required by state law to open the bid to other potential food providers every several years, Pierce began the selection process by forming a committee to assess several bid contenders.
In the end it came down to three contenders: Sodexo, Chartwells and Lancer. Lancer won the bid along with a five-year contract subject to renewal for up to two additional years. The bid decision was not made quickly and all of the food vendors went through a rigorous evaluation process.
“Pierce issued a Request For Proposal and food vendors that responded came to the Puyallup and Fort Steilacoom campus cafeterias to be shown what they’d be working with,” said Suzy Ames, director of the Pierce Foundation and chair of the committee. “From there companies still interested were asked to submit a binder.”
Interested food vendors were expected to include several categories in their binders. One of the most important sections was a description of the types of food they planned to provide and a sample menu.
“We wanted variety beyond the traditional burgers, fries and pizza,” Ames said. “We knew we had to have those because they’re staples for students, but we also were interested in a broad variety of different food products.”
Besides food variety, the committee was interested in the amount of experience each vendor had in providing meals. Committee members requested research from each company and then the committee visited locations the vendors prepared food for. Vendors without substantial experience were quickly dismissed.
“We wanted to know how skilled the company was in providing food service,” Ames said. “It’s a significant undertaking to provide safe, quality food on a daily basis. We needed to know that they’d done that before. We didn’t want to hire anyone if it was their first time around the block.”
Lancer was chosen over other the competition for many reasons, Ames said. The committee was impressed with how Lancer ran its food facilities at Woodland Park Zoo, Point Defiance Zoo, North West Trek and several out-of-state community colleges. Lancer has experience catering a large menu with a value meal section as well as the variety the college was asking for.
Students may notice examples of this in the addition of a noodle bar in the cafeteria, several vegetarian options and a switch from Seattle’s Best to Starbucks coffee in the cafe.
The new food service on campus also takes steps toward being green. Their food is locally sourced with most of it coming from Washington. Details from where each item comes from can be found on a map in the cafeteria. Color-coded stickers help identify seafood, vegetarian and various other foods.
Students also are given the option to buy reusable containers for $5, which they can bring the next time they order food and swap their old containers for clean ones.
“Those that are environmentally friendly are free to use that service and not feel that every time they go down there to eat they’re going to be wasteful,” ASPCP President Lauren Adler said.
As part of its contract Lancer agreed to give Pierce 6 percent of net sales in compensation to the college. That money will go toward a fund to pay for any damaged or broken cafeteria equipment as well as any upgrades the cafeteria may require.
“In the past we haven’t had compensation to the college and so we’ve had to pool that money -from limited state funds,” Ames said. “Now we’ll have a dedicated pool of money to keep our food service facilities modern and up-to-date.”
A second committee of students, college employees and Lancer employees has been formed to regularly review how Lancer is doing.
The feedback will help the company better serve Pierce College. In addition, anyone with an issue or complaint about the cafeteria may contact Curtis Lee, Purchasing Manager.
“With an operation this big we can’t expect it to be perfect overnight, but we’re really excited about this great partnership and everyone’s willing to get this right,” Ames said. “On the same note, we’re really grateful for the seven years of service that Chartwells has provided to us.”-
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