Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
June 5, 1998

Campus input sought for proposed food services merger

by Anne Dolan

A team of consultants is recommending that food services in the department of residence and the Memorial Union merge, to most efficiently respond to the changing expectations of students and employees at Iowa State.

The recommendation is one of four scenarios presented in a report this spring to vice presidents Warren Madden (business and finance) and Tom Hill (student affairs), who requested the study. Madden and Hill are seeking input this summer and early fall from campus organizations and the major users of the current dual food services. They hope to make a recommendation to President Martin Jischke after Oct. 1.

Three other scenarios the consultants outlined, but did not recommend, are:

According to the consultants' report, the benefits of a single campus dining service are numerous. Resident students would get a flexible spending option at food service locations across campus. Over time, one service could introduce dining options at locations ISU employees also could use.

A single operation better uses the facilities available and eliminates duplicated services and duplicated staff needs. The consultants also predict that under one central service, the quality of service would go up because managers' areas of expertise (such as catering, dining service, grocery/convenience outlets) would be better used.

Lastly, one food service, with one capital projects budget, allows the university to develop some of the new campus dining centers (for students and employees) that are part of the residence department's master plan.

"In our opinion, the future direction of university food service will be a blurring of the lines between what is considered 'residential dining' and what is considered 'retail dining' . . . . Thus, all dining operations on the campus will invite all members of the campus to dine," reads the report.

Before attempting a central dining service, the consultants advise Iowa State to resolve two issues: paying off the debt of the Memorial Union's $6.4 million renovation (about 75 percent of which is the food court) and developing a room fee structure that lets the residence department remain a self- supported operation.

The consultants predict that consolidating the two food services initially won't eliminate positions because both departments are "lean" in staffing, overall. However, eventually, improved operations and reorganizing duplicate services could result in cost savings. ISU officials anticipate that any staffing reductions could be done through attrition.

Ideas and suggestions for a more responsive campus food service should be sent to Madden (125 Beardshear, or Hill (311 Beardshear, by Sept. 15.

The consultants are The Ricca Planning Studio, a firm that has been involved in the residence department's master planning process, and The Cornyn Fasano Group, which was involved in the Memorial Union's food court and vending projects. Their recommendation is based on interviews with top managers in the food service programs and other administrators, a review of the operations of the two food services and financial analyses of both programs.

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