Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
March 8, 1996

Vending service could get new look this spring

by Anne Dolan

The firm that gets Iowa State's vending business this spring will have to provide some vending machines that can accommodate the new ISU debit card. Those bidding on the vending contract also may propose additional food services, such as food carts, for high-traffic vending areas. These are the key changes in new specifications written for ISU's vending contract, which will take effect after the current contract expires May 18.

Following several years of discussion about food and snack options in buildings beyond the Memorial Union, the new specifications reflect both decisions made for the Memorial Union food court and food preferences indicated in past surveys of the ISU community.

Under the terms of the new contract, vending machines in heavily used areas must accommodate purchases made with the ISU debit card. The card will be introduced later this spring for all students and employees of the university. The Hub, the colleges of Design and Veterinary Medicine and the Lied Recreation/Athletic Center are several heavy-traffic areas identified by Ron Santi, director of business affairs, who oversees the vending contract.

Companies submitting proposals also may outline a plan for special food service, in addition to vending machines, for the Hub or other heavily used areas. Such plans might be a food cart serving breakfast items during peak hours, and deli sandwiches or soup during lunch hours. The plan could in some way involve a brand-name outlet, Santi said.

"We would very much like to add this type of service," Santi said. "Our first goal is to provide the service and products people desire, so we're looking for some variety, particularly at the Hub because of the number of people using it. We're hoping it might look a little different there."

Santi said early discussion about converting the Hub to a brand-name outlet was discarded for several reasons: the decision to include brand-name outlets in the new Memorial Union food court; concerns about low sales during semester breaks and summer; and the lack of public parking near the Hub.

Santi said he doesn't expect the location of vending machines or the variety of foods available in them to change significantly under the new contract. The new contract will be for a minimum of five years, with an option for up to three one-year renewals.

Vending sales on campus total about $1.4 million annually. Under the university's current contract with TAVCO, an Ames company, 20.4 percent of that is returned to the university. These funds are distributed to: student groups through the college councils, departments that have vending machines and a central fund that covers renovations and utilities for vending operations. Funds also are used for campus improvements, such as lighting on central campus.

TAVCO's contract with the university has been year-to-year for the last several years while officials and an ad hoc committee studied various options.

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