Saturday, November 29, 2008

Duke Student Government Resolution Against Aramark Photo

In February, 2004, the Duke University Student government passed a statement condemning Aramark's dining quality...

I managed to find an old article in the student newspaper discussing the anti-Aramark resolution, click here.

Through another source I got a copy whate appears to be a second resolution expressing much the same sentiments in an official and carefully-worded statement...which is deserving of new life on this blog. Here it is, in its entirety, except for a supporting "Appendix A" which cited student opinion dining "report cards" in careful statistical detail.

A Recommendation Concerning the Performance of Aramark on Campus


Duke Student government asserts that Aramark Corporation does not deliver excellent dining and is not able to provide an excellent dining program at Duke at this point in time. Duke Student Government expresses a vote of no confidence in Aramark Corporation. This is the second vote of no confidence.


Whereas Aramark's structure on Duke University's campus is unique--with five dining locations, including two cafeteria style, one coffee shop, and two franchised locations--Duke Student Government feels that the current model is not meeting expectations of excellence. We define excellence as not only fulfilling promises made last year, but also taking an innovative approach to the Duke dining experience as previously promised by Aramark at the beginning of their tenure on Duke's campus.

We expect the following to satisfy our definition of excellence:

* General improvement of quality, in terms of freshness and taste.
* Reasonable pricing of food reflecting food quality.
* Frequent revision of the menus to satisfy student desires.
* Friendly and consistent customer service.
* Being proactive rather than reactive.
* Providing convenient dining hours for students.
* Correctly and effectively labeling food products to satisfy students' dietary needs, e.g. vegans, vegetarians, and kosher.

Using the results brought forth by the Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee (reference appendix A) (not included in this blog post) it is clear that Aramark is failing to meet this standard of excellence.

On February 22, 2004 the Duke Student Government expressed its sentiments about Aramark in a vote of no confidence. Since then, we have seen a change in management and promises of innovation to come; however, we have seen little improvement to date. We express cautious optimism in the current management's ability to meet the standards of excellence we have laid out.

(Members of the Student Government sign their names)

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Aramark "Price Fixing" And "Monopoly" At Boise State Photo

An "opinion journalist" at Boise State University wrote a fine opinion column, recently, (click here) about how Aramark engages in price fixing and acts like a monopoly.

According to Gabe Murphy, students living on-campus must pay for mandatory meal plans, which provide little flexibility. Worse yet...

...when student clubs and organizations host special events on campus involving food, they are required to employ University Dining Service which is, of course, run by Aramark. Gee, it's exactly the same deal at the University of Minnesota. Well, actually, the University of Almost Anywhere. Aramark's modus operandi is pretty consistent, wherever you go, the "deal you can't refuse" thing.

As fate would have it, the first public announcement of this blog's existence took place moments ago on a comment thread to Gabe Murphy's article. Today I decided, "John, you've got the bare minimum amount of blog content built up....time to turn the thing loose and give search engines permission to crawl"

Crawl, my little techno buddies, to your virtual heart's content.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Aramark Director Admits Unfair Pricing At The University Of South Dakota photo

I wonder if Aramark Director Sinan Supurgeci managed to last more than a week after fessing up about how Aramark had unfair pricing practices at the University of South Dakota...

His precise quote lives on, and for the moment can be found online, click here, but the actual article has disappeared from the University of South Dakota student website where it could (once upon a time in the happy, golden, by-and-by) be located.

Fortunately, I've managed to procure a copy of the exact wording and--in a spirit of fair comment and criticism about the need for student newspapers to effectively maintain their old online content for research purposes--LIKE A REAL NEWSPAPER WOULD DO--I am putting it on this blog, verbatim.

Arg. Actually, I shouldn't be so critical of student newspapers. A great number of non-student newspapers are no better, and in some ways worse. But it's very frustrating for content to disappear and become inaccessible when you're trying to research something, and it's easy to blame giddy, inexperienced, student so-called journalists for not living up to the high, hard standards of A REAL NEWSPAPER.

Ahem. Now, without further ado...



By Liz Gebhart, 4/26/06

For being here less than a year, Aramark Director Sinan Supurgeci knows how to get things done.

During this school year, Supurgeci conducted student surveys to find out what students complaints have with Aramark. (sic) Now he is serious about making changes.

"I want to be proactive and take action on these remarks," he said.

Supurgeci said the number one complaint students have is price. While hours and food quality are also common, price seemed to be the most consistent complaint.

WIth more than 1,000 survey results, Supurgeci wanted to take action. To see if students complaints (sic) were valid, a competitive price analysis was conducted to see where Aramark prices were in comparison to other local businesses.

"Students were right," Supergeci said. "The results were all over the map. There was no real rhyme or reason with some of our pricing."

Supurgeci said one of the more surprising findings was the price of candy. When doing the analysis, they found that a bag of candy was considerably more expensive at the Bump than convenience stores. (Johnny Lunch Battle says: I assume "the Bump" is some kind of on-campus store, and the reporter means convenience stores OFF CAMPUS)

While they want to offer lower prices, Supurgeci stressed Aramark is a business and needs to do what it takes to be profitable. It is because of the market that soda went from 99 cents to $1.29. That was the competitive price at stores around campus.

"(The complaints) can be overblown," Supurgeci said. "Students need to realize what today's market is like."

Students that use Flex dollars have more flexibility in purchases, but Supurgeci wants to make sure they are not tempted to go to a convenience store instead.

For now, Aramark is trying to find a happy medium.

"Students also have to realize that we're not Super Wal-Mart or Hy-Vee. We don't get in truck loads of products," he said. "We only get cases at a time, and we can't compete with them."

To address student concerns and show what was being done to meet student needs, Supurgeci spoke with the Resident Hall Government Association. Withint RHGA is a Food Advisory Council that deals primarily with Aramark and concerns.

RHGA president Mike Husby said the presentation Supurgeci gave to their organization was beneficial on many levels. After the presentation, he said many had a better understanding of the situation Aramark is facing between offering good prices to students and trying to make a profit.

"I was very impressed," Husby said. "Going into it, I really thought that Aramark ripped us off, but they're juggling fair prices and trying to make a profit."

(Johnny Lunch Battle says: both Husby and the reporter of this article are far too easily convinced)

Husby said he has already seen changes with the vegetarian menus and the veggie and fruit trays in the Bump, which so far have been popular with students. Another common concern raised by students was the price of the salad bar. Husby said Aramark told them that it has already lowered the price or will in the future.

Another change is the introduction of the Coyote Cup. RHGA addressed concerns of the waste of Styrofoam cups and their desire to be more environmental friendly. (sic)

Students will be able to purchase a 32-ounce mug for $4.99. Refills will only cost $.89 and will be applied for the entire school year.

They are still discussing if students will have to buy a new mug each year or if they can use the same cup for the refill price. Cups will be available beginning May 5 for next year. Students can purchase them in the Bump and U. Brew.

Next year, Supurgeci said their goal is to focus on promoting nutritional values and offering online menus to see specials and healthy items for the day.


Please note: according to a Facebook profile of a "Sinan Supurgeci," which is not a very common name, he currently lives in Omaha, Nebraska, not South Dakota. I plan to contact him to see if he will provide answers about Aramark. Notably, his Facebook profile as of today shows him eating from what appears to be an institutional lunch tray.
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Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? THE MOB!!! Photo

When I was putting together my series of anti-Aramark columns a few years ago, columns that I hoped would serve as a "trail of bread crumbs" to future anti-Aramark activists, there was one online article which was the key to my research and confirmed what I'd suspected since working briefly for Aramark in the 1980s: Aramark has mob ties.

The article was called "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? The Mob!" and I found it on an MIT website, which noted the article was "adapted from an earlier version that appeared in (sub)Tex, an underground newspaper publishing out of Austin, Texas.

Thank goodness this article never seems to disappear from the internet, unlike my series of opinion columns (arg! tear my hair! ARGGG!) because it contains key documentation in...

...the form of its source citations:

Passing the Bucks: The Contracting Out of Public Services (AFSCME) and a vague allusion to "The Wall Street Journal."

Yes, well, as I recall...when I wrote the column, I managed to locate the Wall Street Journal article by a citation in the AFSCME book. However, it is my intention to get those sources and put that stuff online verbatim, so anybody doing anti-Aramark research will have the information instantly, instead of being forced to dig in yellowed newspaper archives.

When that little underground newspaper in Austin, Texas put out that Aramark article...did they have any idea how long it would live, mutate, and keep having an impact?

I swear, it just makes me glad to wake up in the morning and be a blogger!
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"End Aramark's Monopoly" Photo

Evan Barker, an opinion columnist at Middle Tennessee State University, may not go to a well-known college, but his call to "End Aramark's Monopoly" (click here) has almost-universal application at just about every campus in the United States...

You can click here and check out the article yourself, but here are some highlights:

* Aramark had a contract which specified FRESH fruit, but tried to switch to CANNED fruit. Yeah, Aramark, really sneaky.

* One professor preferred to pay $25 for coffee, bagels and orange juice rather than pay Aramark $87 or fill out forms TO BEG PERMISSION FROM ARAMARK to use another vendor.

* The columnist used the same simple tactic as my "What's behind your lunch" series, simply Googling articles about Aramark to uncover unhappy students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology...and the University of Houston...and the University of Manitoba...and Trent University...Elon University...Witchita State...and more.

(Geez, I could sit around all day finding and aggregating all those articles!)

* In an extremely clever act of "issue framing," the columnist called Aramark "the Walmart of food services" due to their signature moves of outsourcing and low quality.

That's great. I think I might use that, sometime, in the headline of a blog post.

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A Minnesota Daily "Blast From The Past" Directed At Aramark Photo

In my very first post on this blog, click here, I discussed how I wrote a series of opinion pieces to serve as an informative "trail of breadcrumbs" for anybody who needed to battle Aramark, and how the sudden, unexpected loss of those opinion columns because of tedious Minnesota Daily server problems was what spurred me to create this blog.

Therefore, one of my first efforts will be to...

...reconstruct the trail of breadcrumbs, by obtaining all those old articles and putting them up here, word for word.

Hey, you know what? THEY ARE MY COLUMNS. If they can't be accessed on the Minnesota Daily server, I am going to make sure they are accessible here. I care about all my other columns, sure, but I care about these anti-Aramark columns IN PARTICULAR.

Right now, I only have a copy of Part 5 available in hard copy, though I saw a ghost, a shadow of Parts 2 through 4 mentioned on a union website, click here, but the links are dead. I have all those old Aramark columns somewhere, filed away in hard copy, and I'll be getting those old columns on this blog eventually to "reconstruct the trail."

I hear that everything on the internet gets cached away somewhere, forever. I'm not technically brilliant enough to figure out where that special, virtual place might be where my old opinion columns still frolic like gazelles, very much alive and accessible.

For now, we will have to begin with Part 5 and mentally extrapolate all that came before:


How can a company like Aramark be so bad and yet keep making money hand over fist?

By John Hoff

Could anything be more relevant than where your next lunch is coming from? From cage-free eggs to Coca-Cola's syrupy taste of greed, to the saga of Aramark, what students eat and drink is hotter than hot lunch.

Perhaps you were waiting for the other shoe to drop last fall, wondering when Aramark might respond to "What's behind your lunch?' volumes 1 through 4. But, really, if you were Aramark, you would probably just keep your head down, keep your mouth shut and keep flipping burgers.

But it's time to press the old Google button once again to find out what Aramark has been doing in the past month.

* At Duke University in Durham, N.C., the director of Duke Dining Services admits bringing Aramark to campus was a mistake. The Wall Street Journal once ranked Duke as having some of the best food in the country, but now calls the food "mediocre."

Dining Services Director Jim Wulforst was "not only furious about the poor assessment, but also exasperated by the apathetic reactions of Aramark representatives who considered the Wall Street Journal "just another newspaper article."

Aramark is accused of gouging Duke University on food prices and much more. For the past two years, student government and the Student Dining Advisory Committee have voted "no confidence" in Aramark.

* At the University of Illinois-Chicago, an editorial in the Chicago Flame says the Aramark monopoly on campus "allows Wendy's and Subway to consistently give us miserable service, (and) the cafeteria to sell sandwiches on stale bread for over $4."

* Student protesters at the University of California-Irvine continued near the administrative flagpoles, protesting the mistreatment of employees on campus, including Aramark workers. At one point, a college chancellor walked past and was booed.

But one non-union electrical contractor who disagreed with the protest was quoted at length by the university student newspaper, saying stuff like, "There are more Hispanics and Orientals doing menial jobs because that's what they do in their own countries if they're lucky enough to have that." He said college students do not want to work, but prefer to complain.

* A paralyzed 8-year-old girl is still waiting for a $135 million jury judgment against Aramark. The company was found guilty of serving a visibly drunk fan at Giants Stadium and contributing to a "culture of intoxication" which led to the child's injury.

The large monetary judgment happened a year ago, but has not been paid, pending an appeal. The child's family hopes to eventually move into a handicapped-accessible house but, for now, lives in a regular house in Bergen County, N.J.

The little girl, Antonia Verni, is paralyzed from the neck down and must breathe through a tube. She still dreams of becoming a ballerina. Watching a cartoon called "Elasti-Girl," Antonia said, "Her costume is elastic and her real body is, too."

* Inmates at the Passaic County Jail in New Jersy went on a hunger strike to protest food that was described as cold and "too cheap to be nutritious." Bill Maer, a spokesman for the sheriff's department, thought the prisoners were being manipulative, but agreed Aramark's meal standards were not high enough.

* In Colorado, beef producers are furious over a plan by Aramark to "trim costs and calories" by serving prisoners ground turkey instead of ground beef. One state senator said, "They prepare those meals so cheap, I don't know that turkey and beef are that far apart in price." Inmates of the jail in Colorado Springs would tend to agree. Last summer they "went on a brief hunger strike after five straight nights of turkey-based meals."

It should be made clear that last month had good news as well as bad news. Aramark received an award from PETA for its "commitment to vegetarian offerings." One campus dining facility in Canada introduced biodegradeable food containers. And in China, a city hospital in "economically -underdeveloped north Fujian" contracted with Aramark for services. Many other stories told of constant expansion and profit.

You have to wonder how Aramark can keep being so bad, yet keep growing and making money hand over fist. Why aren't all these different jails, stadiums, campuses and other facilities comparing notes?

Why don't new customers research the well-documented negative experiences of entities that have hired Aramark?

In the era of the internet, how does Aramark just keep flying under the radar? (In a Marlon Brando voice) You gotta wonder what their secret might be.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Aramark Threatens Layoffs In Massachusetts Photo

Apparently, Massachusetts got wise and is bringing in a company better than Aramark at its state convention centers, click here to read more details, so the angry food-service giant is...

...going through the ham-handed motions "notifying" public officials about "possible layoffs" if Aramark can't continue the contract, wahhhh.

What Evil Aramark fails to mention is that so often its employees are treated so badly, and paid so little, and there is such high turnover...that plenty of these employees would end up working the same jobs for the competing company, and would be much happier and better off.

Who is the other company? Well, I don't want to praise them too highly...after all, rumor has it that Aramark competitor Sodexo is just as bad as Aramark, if not worse...but in this case, and according to this article (click here) a company called "Unidine" is coming in. This company sounds very modern, very "green," very decent.

Aramark's idea of being "green" is apparently telling students they aren't allowed to have trays anymore, so they can't get so much chow in the serving line. (Click here for an article, and keep in mind "UDS" at the University of Minnesota is controlled by Aramark) Yeah, that's really green, Aramark.

And we know right where all that "green" ends up.
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