FAQ for the Dining Services Request for Proposal (RFP) Committee (updated 9/10/2012)
Why do we have a food contract on campus?
Evergreen has a residential community of approximately 1000 students. There is also a large English First (EF) program on campus with up to 100 students eating on campus daily during the academic year, and higher numbers during the summer. In addition to the residential community, there are faculty, staff, and commuting students that eat on campus daily. With so many people eating on campus and at varied times, the college has chosen to have a food service company help manage this large operation to provide the needs of the campus. Having a food service contract assures that food is prepared for the times and quantities needed, and the economic responsibilities are shared with the vendor through a commission structure.
What is an RFP and how does it work?
An RFP is a “request for proposals”. In addition to being mandated by state law to award contracts based on open competition, it is also a good business practice, resulting in more advantageous prices and services. The RFP process avoids possible legal conflicts with vendors that could prove costly or cause delays that would impact the Evergreen community.
Who are the members of this committee and how are they chosen?
The Director of Residential and Dining Services researched committee membership from past RFP committees, and best practices of committee memberships at other institutions. The list was then vetted with the Strategic Food Committee on campus and approved by the Vice President for Student Affairs. There are many people who are interested in the work of the committee, and a substantial part of the committee’s work is gathering input from the Evergreen community in several ways (see below).
Committee membership includes:
- Director of Residential and Dining Services
- Student member, residential community leader
- Student member, representative from the Geoduck Student Union (GSU)
- Student member, representative from the Flaming Eggplant
- Student member, representative from the Campus Food Coalition
- Flaming Eggplant Advisor
- Director of Business Services
- Faculty member
- Conference Services Manager
- Representative from Purchasing & Contracts
- Representative from College Relations
- Vice President of Student Affairs (ex officio)
An RFP is a legal process and there are rules to follow. How can this process meet legal obligations, but be transparent?
In general, there are four major steps in an RFP process.
- Specifications and requirements development
- Seek bids by posting the RFP publically
- Analyze and score bid responses
- Award a contract to the successful company
After clear and concise specifications, requirements, and scoring criteria are developed (step 1), the Purchasing and Contract Office will convert those specs into a formal bid document, and “run” the competitive process (step 2). Bids responses are scored according to the scoring criteria detailed in the RFP document (step 3). A contract is developed and entered into with the vendor selected via the RFP process (step 4)
Currently, we are working on step 1.
What is the goal of this committee?
Evergreen’s current dining services contract expires in August 2013. This committee is charged with engaging in the request for proposal (RFP) process to select the food service provider for the next period.
Some objectives of the committee are:: developing a thorough Request for Proposal that reflects Evergreen’s values and provides realistic financial returns to the institution; reviews collected assessments of dining services users; invites the campus community to provide feedback and educate the campus about the RFP process; review submitted RFP responses; provide advice regarding the strengths and weaknesses of submitted proposals; and make recommendations to the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Vice President for Business and Finance.
What is the timeline for choosing the next food service provider?
The current dining contract expires in August 2013. The timeline for this process is below:
- Gathering of community feedback
- Training of Dining Services RFP committee in the RFP process
- Committee reviews feedback and assessment data regarding dining services
- Initiation of RFP writing
- RFP finalized
- RFP issued and early steps in RFP process initiated
- Evaluation of received proposals by RFP committee
- On-campus presentations by potential vendors
- Committee provides feedback and any recommendations
- Announcement of “Apparent Successful Vendor”
- Contract preparation and signature
Estimated contract implementation date: September 1, 2013
Is this an opportunity for the college to go “self-op” (self-operated)?
The college has chosen to do an RFP in order to obtain a new dining contract. In the current economic climate, the campus is not prepared for the expense of making the food operation self operated.
What opportunities exist for the campus community to make their voice heard?
When it comes to food everyone has an opinion. Residential and Dining Services conducts surveys throughout the year asking the community about their opinions about food service and the committee has been provided with this information. During the process there will be opportunities for people to provide feedback about what they are hoping for in the new food service provider. There will also be opportunities for the community to learn about the different vendors that will be competing for the contract.
Will Sustainability and Social Justice issues be addressed in the RFP?
Yes! Specifications and requirements contained in the RFP can address the College’s commitment and expectations relating to sustainability and social justice. This may include such issues as food sourcing, recycling, water/electrical usage, food donations, and workers rights.
What does a new contract mean for the Flaming Eggplant?
The Flaming Eggplant is a student-run alternative to the contracted food service. In its current scope, the cafe provides organic, local and seasonally based ala carte food options to the campus. In the current contract there are restrictions around its operation in terms of providing catering and meal plans. Specifications and requirements in the RFP may open opportunities for more flexibility of the cafe as it grows and develops.
What is the decision making process for choosing our next food service provider? What authority does the RFP committee have in this process?
The committee is charged with making recommendations to the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Vice President for Business and Finance; ultimately they make the final decision. Typically their decision reflects the committee’s input, and if not, areas of discrepancy will be addressed.
How is the food contract managed on campus?
The food contract is managed by the contract administrator, the Director of Residential and Dining Services (RAD). There is oversight by the VP for Student Affairs and the VP for Business Services. In addition, there are several committees that the Director of RAD chairs, to assure that community input is gathered about the dining contract and the administration of the contract.
How long is the contract going to be and are there ways to terminate the contract?
In order to get competitive bids, the contract will mostly be a ten year contract. The contract terms are also reviewed annually and new contract language can be proposed.