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Two-state solution for food service woes

Published: September 20, 2013
Section: Opinions


I walked into Usdan this evening looking for a basket of chicken tenders. I had not had any yet, and I wanted to try some of the new selection from Sodexo. Aramark had its problems, and it was certainly time for a change on campus. And what could go wrong with a different multi-national food service provider running every establishment at Brandeis, with no other sort of competition within the confines of 415 South Street?

I can understand, somewhat, why the prices for food are higher on campus than you would find anywhere else. There are upcharges for the delivering on campus and most things are made-to-order. But three dollars for a slice of pizza? About $2.50 for a bagel and cream cheese? Just looking at three different pizza places in Waltham gave me an average of around a buck seventy for a plain slice, and I have never spent over two dollars for a bagel. Some of the prices are ridiculous, and that will not change whether we have Aramark or Sodexo or Freddy from “House of Cards” running our food services.

Unless, we have them both and create a little competition. Let the suits walk around the first week, making sure everything is running smoothly, and that everyone knows what is going on. They could play off of each other for the patronage of the student body, and college students typically gravitate towards cheap food. And if we want to get really fancy and make the dining options at Brandeis all the better, we can allow each separate establishment such as Einstein’s and the C-store to be run independently, rather than under the patronage of an Aramark or Sodexo.

Imagine having a New York-style deli being run by someone from New York, or an Italian restaurant being run by actual Albanians. In Usdan, there is space for about nine different booths total. Imagine them competing with each other to make the best food and offer the best prices. It would generate so much more high-quality food and offer a better variety. Now we have two sandwich shops right next to each other, the only difference being that one grills the sandwich while the other does not.

And if we, as students, decide that we do not like a particular establishment, and they can not generate enough business, then the real fun begins. Evolution occurs, with the old restaurant being forced to close, giving a new prospective owner the opportunity to open up a shop. Students could even vote for what type of restaurant they wanted to open, or the administration could find a few candidates and students vote for the final say.

I understand that there are some major flaws in my plan for changing the food services here on campus. One of which is what to do with Sherman, which is so large an operation, as it serves all-you-can-eat. I am not sure one small business could run it. It would probably require a company like Sodexo to run it day-to-day. And it might be too difficult to feed a school with over 3,000 students seven days a week with private enterprises handling everything. It might be too big of a job and require too much effort, when some restaurants may end up closing after a mere six months.

But some sort of competition, even if we just utilized two different larger companies, would be better than letting Sodexo have a complete monopoly. Right now, if we have a problem, the only other option is going to Hannaford’s, a mile away. I do not think it is fair to treat college students, who already pay so much for tuition, as if they are just open wallets looking to buy whatever overpriced food they can get their hands on. I would like to say we are more than that and deserve to be treated with more respect. The school should have our best interests in mind, and our nutrition should be around the top of that list.

There were no chicken tenders in Usdan, and when I went to the grilled sandwich shop in Lower, they had run out of American cheese and sourdough bread. So if we cannot even get the full selection from Sodexo on any given night, what are they offering us? And how are we able to let them know we want something more? It might be a bit too early in the year to start complaining about the new food services company, but it is completely disheartening to see the same sort of mistakes happening as in years previous, as if nothing had changed.