Food Services Committee hosts session on food solutions

Aramark looking for solutions to accommodate new food options despite space limitations

David Porter, CEO of Porter-Khouw, presented various food service options based on market research and previous work his firm has done at other universities in Canada and the United States, such as Simon Fraser University, the University of Houston and Montana State University. (Juan Cabrejo/The Omega)

The TRU Food Services Committee hosted an info session last Wednesday to evaluate different solutions for better food options on campus. The session featured David Porter, CEO of Porter-Khouw Consulting, presenting short-term and long-term solutions based on market research and previous work his firm has done at other Canadian and American universities.

Porter recommended two dining hall options, acknowledging despite being a significant investment. This would address many of the complaints shared by students along with serving as a primary social space.

The first option would be retail-based, much like a food court and the second would be anytime dining, a 24-hour facility featuring a self-serve model, similar to the new dining hall at Simon Fraser University. The main difference being the method of payment.

“We believe what we’re recommending is innovative for your campus, we believe it will help complete the bridge between a dining engagement perspective of a community college model to more of a world-class university model,” he said. “We’ve been given information after other schools put these programs in place that their retention rates have increased due to more student engagement, social richness and more students connecting and wanting to stay longer.”

The consulting firm conducted a web-based survey of 2,155 TRU students, receiving information based on student suggestions on TRU’s food service strengths and weaknesses. Some of the issues that students brought to light were the lack of services on weekends, the long lines at Starbucks and Tim Hortons, the lack of a dedicated dining hall and even the amount of food waste. Many of these issues had already been mentioned at previous TRUSU student budget consultations.

Another interesting finding of the study was the number of students who were disappointed with Aramark’s services, but not with the company itself, 37 per cent of students said they liked Aramark, eight per cent went as far as to say they found them excellent.

“The biggest complaints are the hours and variety of choices, the hours meaning little to nothing late on campus at night and on weekends, along with the variety of choices as the number of locations are somewhat limited,” said Porter. “Lineups on campus are horrendously busy; we heard a lot about the long lines at Tim Hortons, Starbucks and Old Main. There is a massive disconnect regarding capacity here on campus.”

Porter suggested for the short-term to implement an anytime dining system in the culinary arts kitchen after the scratch café moves to a new facility within the next year. He also suggested dedicating a certain section of the CAC as anytime dining.

Fortunately, despite notable dissatisfaction with Aramark’s services among the student body, the company is willing to look beyond their current agreement with TRU and look at new options for the future. Glenn Read, executive director of Athletics, Recreation and Ancillary Services, mentions it’s not a matter of Aramark not wanting more services to be on campus, but of finding the space necessary to accommodate more for food options.

“I’ve talked to Chopped Leaf as a company out of Toronto and they’re more than willing to be on campus, Aramark has already agreed to that,” Read said. “It’s about finding the real estate and infrastructure to support it.”