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why does ARAMARK enjoy a complete monopoly on Grounds?

frenchcoldplayfrenchcoldplay - Posts: 214 Junior Member
edited May 2011 in University of Virginia
Can we know the benefits given to the University for our deal with the Devil? How significant is our discount? Why are students and student organisations prevented from establishing more permanent food venues, especially since these orgs are more friendly and responsive and can offer alternatives that are more diverse, genuine, and more culturally rich and artistic?

Why must every satellite food venue be run by ARAMARK? I think it's important to know the nature of this Contract that disempowers every student on Grounds. Would Thomas Jefferson have agreed to such a Pact?

Many students are able to cook, but this monopoly seems intent on preventing students from being able to cook conveniently. Note that while we have many convenience stores, we have no corner grocers.

ARAMARK clearly is performing some sort of class-based marketing when it sells a paltry ounce of grapes for $5.35; the same ounce would cost me $0.15 cents at Kroger. I understand that land on Grounds is a premium and so must be rent and its Opportunity Cost, but surely this is exorbitant if you want to promote Healthy Eating, especially to low-income students.

In Singapore, it is a common practice for schools to set aside parcels of land at lowered rents to encourage cheap food for its students, and there are sometimes up to eight competing vendors in a single location; generally small businesses with a rich abundance of ideas and culinary appreciation of food. In UMass-Amherst at least, students are regularly encouraged to join the dining staff and the result is rolls of tender sushi with the labour of love put into it, not the miniscule triads of dried instant rice that we get.

I am curious to know what Benefits this Monopoly offers us, and whether the administration truly thinks these benefits outweigh its Costs.

-- a former student employee of ARAMARK
Post edited by frenchcoldplay on

Replies to: why does ARAMARK enjoy a complete monopoly on Grounds?

  • 62815976281597 Registered User Posts: 286 Junior Member
    Why don't you ask the administration? I emailed Teresa Sullivan once and she got back to me within two days.

    This isn't the best place to search for an answer to that question.
  • frenchcoldplayfrenchcoldplay - Posts: 214 Junior Member
    I am sure I am much too disempowered for my inquiry to be of importance

    plus the lack of googable public info on this Contract must only mean the administration wishes to conceal it
  • pch340pch340 Registered User Posts: 811 Member
    Haha ARAMARK is crap. I worked for them at the PNC Bank Arts Center last summer. I can't imagine that any university, let alone UVA, would make an exclusive contract with them. Almost makes me not want to go there...
  • UVaSystems2012UVaSystems2012 Registered User Posts: 85 Junior Member
    Aramark is straight evil. If you actually look at the per-meal cost of getting a meal plan, its something in the vicinity of $10. Add that to the awful food... I would say the dining halls are the worst part of UVa.
  • frenchcoldplayfrenchcoldplay - Posts: 214 Junior Member
    on the plus side, C'ville has the most restaurants per capita in the nation and eating there is often cheaper the dining hall -- Milan up 29 is super classy, has awesome Indian food, and has like $17 entrees for dinner has $9.95 buffets for lunch. Unfortunately it requires a drive or a busride. Ni Hao has $5 Asian food specials.

    I really find this ironic.

    While the compulsory first year thing is to get people to socialise, I really think there are for more effective schemes.

    I am also convinced that ARAMARK, far from being a rational business, does not know how to price their goods during football or basketball games to attract business -- as a person who's worked behind the counter to fundraise for our student org I estimate out of the tens of thousands of people that go ARAMARK only gets 5% of patrons of people to buy stuff -- and that's estimating business for all the stalls. I believe it's reasonable to aim for 20% or 30%. Of course, if you're a monopoly you can afford to make less money but if you were competing with another vendor at those prices for less-than-decent food you'd see your revenue drop off to zero pretty quick.

    When you consider that these games cost quite a bit to attend (except of course for students who go for free!), the inability for them to get people to buy their stuff -- despite the fact that people are banned from bringing food or drink into these games -- hints at how bad their business model is.

    And my ARAMARK bosses and managers did not strike me as the most innovative or passionate people ever. I'm sure people at Starbucks (who also know how to get people to buy high-priced goods) would be more invigorating. ARAMARK only knows how to work with the model of monopoly.
  • Dean JDean J College Rep Posts: 4,504 Senior Member
    Most colleges here contract their food services. The two most successful food service companies in this country are Aramark and Sodeho-Marriott.
  • lizardlizard Registered User Posts: 3,410 Senior Member
    Aramark provides food services in prisons, hospitals, colleges, amusement parks, baseball parks, etc., etc. A complete list of all the places they serve food would probably blow most people's minds.
  • coolpgcoolpg Registered User Posts: 181 Junior Member
    If you want to resolve the issue, you should take this up to an administrator...or better yet, Student Council!
  • frenchcoldplayfrenchcoldplay - Posts: 214 Junior Member
    Most colleges here contract their food services.

    This would be unthinkable in developed nations in East Asia.

    I daresay, even Germany and France. Do the Grandes Ecoles or the Sorbonne hire mediocre catering companies with staff that have no passion for food at all? ARAMARK has better accountants but are lacking in people who care about food and are innovators in their field. They have more innovators in marketing than innovators in food.

    (I suspect this is what happens when you get dispassionate people from the finance and marketing industries running a food business?)
    The two most successful food service companies in this country are Aramark and Sodeho-Marriott.

    In terms of profiteering and profit-gouging yes.
    In terms of consumer preference and social impact no.

    The business model of ARAMARK is one based on monopoly.

    In venues where they do not hold a monopolistic advantage they simply refuse to compete. Because they know they cannot.

    This is why MIT's administration turned down the idea of dual-competition dining, because they knew ARAMARK would pull out. But from experience in Southeast Asia, I know the common population generally has a lot of passionate small business vendors, and when set up in competition, the food quality generally excels and the vendors are ATTENTIVE and they LISTEN.
  • frenchcoldplayfrenchcoldplay - Posts: 214 Junior Member
    Most colleges here contract their food services

    also what I want to ask is not why the University contracted ARAMARK, which would be tolerable, but why they contracted only ARAMARK, and why all other forms of competition on Grounds are suppressed. Student organisations -- some of them very talented -- cannot run high-impact food businesses for this reason, even for non-profit purposes.

    Why is the West Range operated by ARAMARK? Even the French House and the Shea House does not have unique food -- their meals, far from being culturally unique to the House, are usurped by ARAMARK. Why is it that every little satellite venue that has food must be ARAMARK-owned? Would Jefferson have appreciated such a scheme in his University that suppressed all natural competition?

    also I find the unrestricted advertising strategies that ARAMARK is allowed to pursue on Grounds rather disturbing. Student cooking or non-ARAMARK sources of food are attacked while their dominance means ARAMARK does not have to worry about rebuttal.
  • 62815976281597 Registered User Posts: 286 Junior Member
    As far as I know, this is just how foodservice contracts work. Part of the deal is that the provider gains rights to ALL dining and vending opportunities. ARAMARK is the only one that does this. If UVa had picked a competitor like Sodexo or Chartwells, I believe the situation would probably be the same. Anyway, that's why. It's just the standard for the industry.
  • guillaumeguillaume Registered User Posts: 659 Member
    Maybe they need to take a look at the way Vtech manages to offer great food.

    Sent from my MB200 using CC App
  • 62815976281597 Registered User Posts: 286 Junior Member
    ... meant to say ARAMARK is NOT the only one that does this.
  • pch340pch340 Registered User Posts: 811 Member
    Most colleges here contract their food services. The two most successful food service companies in this country are Aramark and Sodeho-Marriott.

    Is this a joke? The food quality of ARAMARK's goods are classified as "Level 3 Purveyor." That is the same level of quality reserved for cheap public schools and prisons. Skip the meal plan if you can, find somewhere else to eat. You don't want to put this stuff in your body on a regular basis. Trust me.
  • frenchcoldplayfrenchcoldplay - Posts: 214 Junior Member
    If UVa had picked a competitor like Sodexo or Chartwells, I believe the situation would probably be the same. Anyway, that's why. It's just the standard for the industry.

    wow...some Americans really have no imagination, I guess. They see -- "lemme see, we have to feed 13000 undergrads -- oh wait 7000 of them are too disgusted to have a dining plan anyway -- but still, we need to find a really really big vendor willing to take them all."

    It's a fairly simple scheme to get a series of small vendors who can participate in an integrated system and cooperate with each other but also exhibit competitive pressure on each other.

    Singapore and Malaysia, which you know, are countries that have lower per capita GDPs, pull this off spectacularly and the 8-stall scheme is common -- nay, UNIVERSAL -- in hospitals, universities and schools. As I have said, these schools often charge low rents to vendors so as to pass on lower prices to students, such that food prices are often lower than the market prices outside the school. I don't think schools or universities in Japan or even China outsource their food to large, unempathetic vendors. Students would be outraged.

    yet ironically, the average prices for UVA Dining / ARAMARK are higher than the market prices in Charlottesville. Economic logic then, would dictate we are collecting some sort of economic rent or premium from ARAMARK to fund our school (i.e. it is another form of charging students) -- is this the case? If so it is less worse than being totally ripped off by a monopoly.

    Anyway, when you talk about the state of "the industry" -- please, have some imagination. It's not like the barriers to entry for foodservice are that high.
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