Stony Brook students are hard-pressed for a Sodexo meal that will not have them reaching for the Pepto Bismol. The solution, proposed on Jan. 9 by the Faculty Student Association, is to have a re-bidding process.
Currently at the starting line are the two contenders: Aramark and CulinArt. Each has presented its proposed alterations to improve the campus dining experience at public meetings. Having not gone to Aramark’s presentation, I may be biased in saying that CulinArt is well-equipped to finish first.
CulinArt’s plan will lead to a cornucopia of food — if it comes to fruition. For those living on east campus, H-Quad will be receiving salads, sandwiches, sushi, fruit, parfaits and fresh baked goods. East Side Dining customers can choose from a New York deli, vegan and vegetarian cuisine and a self-serve smoothies operation. At the SAC Loop, there may be a Nathan’s Hot Dogs cart to quell pangs of hunger during the wait for a never-arriving ride. Inside a more retail-oriented Roth there will be a Cocina Fresca – CulinArt’s spin on Chipotle since Chipotle does not franchise — a deli, and a Shake Shack in 2018. Lastly, West Side Dining will cater essentially the same variety of options as at East Side, with the addition of a bagel market in the GLS/HDV Center. The cherry on top is campus delivery for food. Who will they be hiring? Student drivers, which means more opportunities for students to work on campus. All of this sounds spectacular, but why should we, as students, trust CulinArt?
CulinArt is a company on Long Island, approximately 24 miles away from our campus, as highlighted in their presentation. Because it is in such close proximity, the company has numerous connections to the university. For example, it has been providing food for the Staller Center Gala for nine years. Alan Inkles, the director of the Staller Center for the Arts, said that in his time at Stony Brook, “none of the others come close to the exceptional quality of [its] food, service and execution.” However, before the university puts all its eggs in CulinArt’s basket, a few concerns should be considered.
CulinArt is also the food service provider at Carnegie Mellon University. In an article from 2014, their student-run newspaper, The Tartan, critiqued the meal plan’s block system, writing, “a salad from Spinning Salad with edamame cost a student just as much as the all-you-can-eat buffet.” In an article from 2016, CulinArt was shown to be stringent on employee wages.
While Sodexo employees at the University of Pittsburgh make up to $15.92 an hour, CulinArt employees at Carnegie Mellon had to fight for a wage above $13.35 an hour.
If the university wants to chance adopting a lesser-known company, CulinArt could potentially reinvigorate the campus dining experience.