Lawrence undergoing reevaluation of dining services

As of Winter Term 2024, Lawrence has been renegotiating the contract with current dining services provider Bon Appetit. According to Vice President for Student Life Chris Clarke, it has been 15 years since the last time the university has done this, and although he praised Bon Appetit for its continuous improvement, he said it is time to reexamine based on student needs and financial profile.  

Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) President senior Anders Hanhan said that over the four years that he has attended, he has heard several student concerns over issues including but not limited to food variety and quality, the rising costs of meal plans and flexibility in dining hours. He has been collecting student and faculty feedback through anonymous surveys and interest groups about what changes Lawrentians want addressed.  

One of the student concerns raised about the current meal plan is rising prices in the Café. Photo by Rongyan Song.

“We’re taking the feedback that we’ve been collecting for years, the feedback that every student on this campus has heard about […] to actually get a meal plan that better works for everybody—[one that] better works for athletes, better works for Conservatory students,” Hanhan said. “We’re really trying to […] get an honest picture of what people want to see.”  

As a result, the university is undergoing what Clarke called a Request for Proposal (RPF), a common strategy used by organizations to reevaluate changing student needs and then select a vendor best suited to work with them.  

“Regardless of whether or not it’s Bon Appetit, there’s going to be a new food contract,” Hanhan said. “The meal plan is going to change—and hopefully for the better in a lot of ways.” 

Clarke said Lawrence asked seven different vendors — Bon Appetit being among them — to participate in the multi-step process. The first phase of the RPF took place in January and consisted of student-attended tours and interviews to acquaint vendors with what the university is looking for. Following this, the vendors will make initial proposals for university review based on student feedback.

 (Pictured above) Meal plans at Lawrence will look different next year, regardless of the vendor selected. Photo provided by Lawrence University.

The top few will be reinvited to expand on their proposals before the final selection that Hanhan expects to take place in Spring Term.  

Hanhan hopes that the outcome—one that will ideally bring about the improvements Lawrentians want to see—will not drastically affect the price of the meal plan.  

Clarke expects the selected vendor’s contract will begin this year on July 1. He and Hanhan encourage students to reach out to them if they have interest in participating in the next stage of the RPF process, as both the university and Bon Appetit continue to collect feedback.  

“It is our hope that the RFP process will result in identifying a great Dining Services partner that will put forth a model of service that meets our needs as a community for years to come,” Clarke said. “It is important to analyze all business partnerships on a timely basis to make sure it makes sense for the students, for our financial model, for our infrastructure and for our future.”