University of Northern Colorado seeks to improve on-campus dining options

A new dining experience for students and staff at the University of Northern Colorado seems to have its place on a future college menu.

UNC hopes to finalize a contract this fall with food service and facilities management company Sodexo to manage the university’s future food and beverage operations.

The university is in the developmental stage of the contracting process, but negotiations have not yet started, according to UNC spokeswoman Deanna Herbert.

Earlier this year, UNC solicited proposals from nationwide vendors for catering services including board operations, catering, sales and concessions. The UNC has used the on-site catering service for at least 50 years, Vice President of Student Affairs and Head of Diversity Tobias Guzmán told the university’s board earlier this month.

UNC has three main restaurants: Holmes Dining Hall on 9th Avenue, Tobey-Kendel Dining Room also on 9th Avenue, and University Center Food Court & Retail Dining in the University Center on 10th Avenue.

The stoves feature a mix of sautéed squash and spaghetti squash, both vegan or vegetarian options at Holmes Dining Hall on the University of Northern Colorado campus. (Emily Kemme / for the Greeley Tribune)

As a result of the Request for Proposals (RFP) process, the evaluation committee tasked with examining the strengthening of university catering recommended extending an “award notice” to Sodexo.

Herbert wrote in an email that while UNC feels comfortable with Sodexo’s initial proposal, a contract depends on the negotiation process and the approval of the university’s board of directors. Sodexo representatives made a full presentation to the Board of Directors at the June 11 Directors meeting.

The presentation mentioned addressing issues of food insecurity among students, partnering with UNC to become a Hispanic service institution, and creating a food court concept with more diversity in food choices.

“We believe catering plays a unique role in the student experience on campus,” Sodexo Colorado District Manager Moses DeBord told administrators.

The university researched new catering options to address three key areas: optimizing a catering operation to meet the needs of a 21st century campus; create opportunities for modernization of facilities; and generate more retail options – local and diverse – on campus.

As part of a financial commitment offered by Sodexo, the company would invest $ 15 million in catering at UNC, with the university collecting a return that could rise to $ 100 million over the next decade.

Sodexo would then manage the transaction and invest its capital and resources in the changes, according to Herbert. UNC would keep a percentage of sales to be determined.

Herbert added that the university had asked Sodexo to retain all state-classified food service employees and students from UNC and that the company was willing to honor that request. Herbert did not indicate how many government employees and students would be affected if Sodexo took control of the operations.

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