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Parkhurst ready to face challengers for JCU dining

February 15th, 2007

Campus dining next year could mean more food options, with high quality ingredients, more student-friendly meal plan options and longer retail dining hours.

Vice President for Student Affairs Patrick Rombalski said that students should expect major changes to university dining services as a result of the request for proposal (RFP) that JCU will send out to dining services throughout the country.

With Parkhurst Dining Services’ annual contract expiring at the end of this semester, this RFP will have the University searching for the highest quality dining services provider available among a wide array of applicants, including Parkhurst.

“From a quality control perspective, it’s healthy to go out and see how current service compares to competitors,” said Rombalski.
He said that he expects to receive six proposals in response to the RFP, which will be sent out February 23.
Of those six proposals, Rombalski says he plans on interviewing three of them and looking into their services in institutions across the country.

Because room and board costs did not rise for students next year, the school has a limited budget to work with. If the cost of the proposal they choose is higher than the current contract, cuts will have to be taken from other areas next year.

“It could be a possibility of it being the same price and getting more for our money,” said Allison Kern, former chair of the Student Union dining committee.

This could be the case if Parkhurst offers a new proposal and wins the contract.

Since JCU first started working with Pittsburgh-based Parkhurst Dining Services in 2001, when the company replaced Marriott Dining Services, the school has been working on a year-to-year contract.

When Parkhurst first took over, said Rombalski, they were preferred over Marriott’s service. “Within the first year or so students were raving over Parkhurst,” he said. He explained that this year’s investigation into dining services will be an opportunity to “get a fresh look at”

Parkhurst’s pricing, cleanliness and quality of food and service compared to competitors.

Kern said that an important factor in this search is looking into how the campus dining fits into student life. “We’ve been looking at the meal plan,” she said, “what’s the best way for it to work with students.”

While heading the dining committee, Kern was alongside Rombalski and other JCU officials when they first began looking into RFP as an option.

While she no longer serves on the committee, she, along with current chair of dining committee Katie Keating, will continue to serve as a student representative on the search.

“It’s just easier to get a whole new contract and look at what’s feasible for us to do,” she says.
Rombalski says that even if Parkhurst receives the contract for next year, students should expect major, positive changes in the cafeteria and campus retail dining, like the Inn-Between.

“When you look at food service across the country, satisfaction isn’t high anywhere,” he said. “College students are hard to please,” he said. He explains that’s why it is important to periodically put the contract up for proposal.

Parkhurst director Jim Razzante says that his company will most definitely rethink their current services in order to make a new proposal.
“We’re waiting until the RFP comes out and seeing what the University is looking for,” he says. “We’re looking forward to making an offer.”