Montclair State University is searching for a new dining vendor.
Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life, Dawn Soufleris, said five vendors will possibly be submitting proposals to the university after a pre-bid meeting that was held on Nov. 18.
“As part of the [Request for Proposal] process, there was an open session prior to the Thanksgiving break,” Soufleris said. “This allowed any interested vendors to come, hear a small presentation given by the university and then take a tour of the campus. At that event, we had five interested vendors. Their proposals are not due yet, so we are not sure how many of the five will submit a bid.”
The search for a new vendor comes as the campus community has been pushing for a change in the variety of foods offered at the university and where the dining halls are located.
Students like Juan Rizo, a sophomore business administration major, expressed their feelings about the selections of meals on campus, their prices and locations.
“I feel like the Student Center food has a good mixture,” Rizo said. “There is something a little less healthy like Panda Express. If not, there’s California Tortilla instead and sushi here is a good option. I’ve bought other things. Panda Express is cheap. This bowl and water were eight dollars. It fills you.”
Rizo also would like to see more healthy food options at Montclair State.
“The pizza place [in the Rathskeller] downstairs isn’t terrible,” Rizo said. “It’s fast food so it’s expected. Blanton could get better food options. I don’t think there should be two [Dunkin’s]. I don’t know about the healthier food prices, but that’s probably what I’d like to see more of.”
Syed Alam, a senior computer science major, feels there are a few issues that need to be resolved in order to better access food on campus.
“I say the food options here are fine, I eat on campus often,” Alam said. “The problem is the accessibility. Everything is all over the place. The closing times should be the same. Some people eat halal and have haram restrictions. The only place open to them is the pizzeria downstairs [in the Rathskeller]. I don’t feel [the food] here is worth the true price. You should get a much bigger serving size.”
Similarly to Rizo, Alam mentioned that instead of the two Dunkin’s, the campus should open a store for its competing coffee chain.
“I would like to see a Starbucks here on campus,” Alam said.
Jahdae Drake, a freshman psychology major, said that as a commuter getting food on campus can be a little expensive.
“I think the food options are okay,” Drake said. “It’s not bad. I think we need a vendor that’ll be more inclusive with food [options]. For someone like me, it could get expensive. I don’t have a meal plan. I’m here four days out of the week and it could add up.”
Drake shared some of the food places they would like to see on campus.
“I would actually like a place that would sell chicken wings like a Wingstop or a Buffalo Wild Wings,” Drake said.
Those concerns have been heard. Soufleris said there are many goals to be achieved with the new dining vendor.
“Our goals include more innovative dining options, more selections, higher-quality offerings, mobile options, dining services closer to Clove Road and options that are affordable for our students, staff and faculty,” Soufleris said.
The cost of the contract has yet to be determined as the public bidding process extends into next year and needs state approval in order to be finalized.
“Once the bids have been received, there will be public presentations that anyone on campus can attend,” Soufleris said. “We will be gathering feedback from the presentations to help us make the final selection. We will then submit our selection to the state for their approval.”
The university’s goal is to finalize the process by the upcoming semester.
Our hope is that the state will approve our selection during the spring 2023 semester, with the plan to begin a transition over the summer of 2023 so we can begin the 2023-24 academic year with a vendor in place,” Soufleris said.