The University of Florida, through its office of Business Services, operating under the Division of Business Affairs, has released the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) for its food services program. This document outlines the competitive bid process to identify the university’s food services supplier for the next contract period. The search will be conducted over the next six months. The University’s contract operator is charged with delivering excellent nutrition on UF’s campus, while focusing on local procurement, increasing sustainability efforts, and offering the highest quality food and customer service.

With the release of the ITN, the university will accept proposals from all food service companies that have an interest in supporting the university’s goal of providing a top-tier food services program. The next contract period will begin on July 1, 2022.

A campus-wide committee was assembled to assist in the development of the ITN document. The same committee, consisting of 17 University of Florida subject-matter professionals, will be managed by the university’s Office of Procurement to conduct the process to select the provider.

The 2021 ITN committee boasts 17 members. Including a large array of individuals in this ITN committee ensures that cross-campus views are heard and are able to contribute to this bid process. Departments represented include Student Affairs, Institute for Food & Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), Office of Sustainability, Food & Resource Economics, Housing and Residence Life, Planning Design & Construction, Health Sciences Center, Small Business & Supplier Diversity, Faculty Senate, and the Food Services Advisory Committee, among others. In addition, there are students representing Student Government, the Food Services Advisory Committee, and the Inter-Residence Hall Association.

The goals and priorities of the next dining program have been compiled through recommendations from the Food Service Master Plan, the ITN Committee, the Food Services Advisory Committee, the office of Business Services and food advisory/consultancy group, Envision Strategies.

The university’s most recent food services ITN was issued in July 2009 and awarded to Aramark. The contract with Aramark was renewed for an additional two years (to June 30, 2021) while Business Services completed a Food Service Master Plan in order to further research the University’s needs on how to achieve a top-tier dining program. An additional one-year renewal was executed (to June 30, 2022) due to disruptions to operations at the university due to COVID-19. The results and recommendations from the Food Service Master Plan, conducted by Brailsford & Dunlavey, Inc., in collaboration with Petit Consulting LLC, have served as the groundwork for this ITN document.

Business Services has consistently prioritized environmental, social, cultural and economic issues in the dining program. Business Services will continue to commit to these causes in this ITN. “Currently, Gator Dining purchases 33% of its products for the residential dining program from local or statewide organizations. The relationship between the food program and the community is one that will continue to grow,” says Eddie Daniels, Assistant Vice President for Business Services.

In June of 2020, Matt Mueller joined the Business Services’ team as the department’s first Director of Food and Beverage Services. “My goal in this position is to create a stronger relationship between our food service providers, the University, and our community. While having an overall robust program, we are also working toward making an impact on food insecurity, looking to add uniqueness to our program, and supporting the preeminence of the University.”

The upcoming food service contract will address many of the concepts identified in recent discussions and planning sessions, including the expansion of local food purchasing, reduction of green-house gas emissions, and expansion of plant-based food offerings. Daniels believes the ultimate goal is to balance ethical responsibility with a high quality, affordable food service program that meets the needs of the Gator Nation.