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October 26, 2001

Teams aid food service merger

The Memorial Union Food Court will become part of the new Campus Dining Services on July 1, 2002. Photo by Michael Haynes.
by Anne Krapfl
A national search has begun to find a director for Iowa State's Campus Dining Services. The new director will lead the merger of the food services of the Memorial Union and department of residence.

Vice president for student affairs Tom Hill said the university has hired the search firm of Tyler and Co., Atlanta. Tyler executives are working with a campus screening committee. The timeline, according to Hill, is to identify a small group of finalists by Nov. 1 to bring to campus for interviews. He said he is hopeful a new director would start sometime in January. The goal remains to integrate the two food services' employees, accounting systems and service operations on July 1, 2002.

"We're using a search firm to expedite the process," Hill said. "We've had success in the past using both a search firm and the screening committee."

Campus Dining Services was created in July 2000. It includes the residence department's dining center, catering and convenience store operations; the Memorial Union's catering service and food court (contracts with franchises will be honored); catering at Scheman (which the Memorial Union currently does); and campus vending services and cafes. Stewart Burger, the new unit's director-designate, resigned last March.

To keep the merger process moving until a new director is hired, nine employee teams have been studying the mechanics of completing the merger. For example, teams have assignments in retail dining and student meal contracts, catering and special events, accounting systems, vending and convenience stores, and personnel and classification issues. Those groups will make recommendations based on what they learn to Teresa Branch, assistant vice president for student affairs.

A campus advisory committee, chaired by Branch, also has been working on an overall transition plan for more than a year, with the goal of outlining the structure for a unit that can financially sustain itself over time. A key consideration in that challenge is the large amount of debt facing both the Memorial Union and the residence department for recent or planned building projects and renovations.

"The transition teams are making progress in the development of a plan for the proposed one food service operation," Hill said. "I am confident they will be able to meet the established timeline."

Another issue the advisory committee is working through is merging two employee groups.

"Our position on job opportunities hasn't changed," Hill said. "We don't anticipate layoffs; in fact, we anticipate greater demand on the new merged unit, and more opportunities."

The advisory committee has assisted consultant John Cornyn of the Cornyn-Fasano Group, Portland. Cornyn has been studying ISU food service units since 1994 and his most recent report to Iowa State was completed in late September. His recommendations remain similar to those he made in 1998 and 2000 reports: despite challenges such as debt, leadership changes and the detail work of merging two existing units into one, a single dining service will better serve students, faculty and staff because it will better use facilities, financial resources and talent. In fact, Cornyn wrote, "there is potential for broad financial losses to Iowa State" if it continues to operate two separate units.

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