Competition in question
by Bryan Weismiller
Finding sustenance on campus isn’t tough, however, questions have been raised over whether there’s healthy competition between food vendors at Mount Royal University.
As it currently stands, Sodexo –– an international food service company –– owns the rights to provide all food services on campus property. Wyckham House vendors are the only exceptions, as the Students’ Association of Mount Royal University owns the building.
“Although there are issues with the monopoly Sodexo holds over MRU food services, it is similar to most other post-secondary institutions,” said Meghan Melnyk, VP external, in an email. “MRU students are luckier than other schools because they have the non-Sodexo food court option in Wyckham House.”
However, Brent Mann, MRU Sodexo account general manager at Mount Royal, said he believes there’s direct competition on campus. He listed several examples of rival businesses including Tim Hortons and Good Earth, Far East Fusion and Edo Japan, and Mr. Sub and Subway.
“I would say that by no means do we have a monopoly,” Mann said. “For every platform we’ve got competition.
“I would say if Wyckham House didn’t exist then, by definition, we would have a monopoly in food service.”
Mount Royal signed a seven-year contract with Sodexo after the previous contract expired in April 2007. Under the current agreement, students, staff and faculty are not permitted to bring outside food onto campus. Many people may order pizza or coffee and doughnuts for group projects and presentations, but Sodexo has the contractual right to disallow these products from coming into the building.
“With the agreement with Mount Royal, there are certain percentages that you’re paying to be here on campus,” Mann said. “There are certain expectations that you’re going to be the caterer on campus and you’re going to be the sole service provider for the food.”
Wendelin Fraser, dean of the Bissett School of Business, said that she’s worked at several post-secondary institutions that have all had an exclusive food services contract.
“We give Sodexo the opportunity for an exclusive contract based upon the fact they promise to commit to give us service over a 12-month period, despite the fact that we have some really slow seasons,” Fraser said.
She suggested the campus would have fewer options in a free-market system because the school is generally only busy from September to April. There are also additional slow periods during Christmas break and reading week.
“Would you operate for just eight months of the year?” Fraser asked. “It would be hard if you’re a business person trying to feed your family.”
Students and faculty have expressed concerns with Sodexo’s food services. The Reflector spoke to several faculty members who said they’d like more freedom when catering events, however, none of them were willing to express their concerns on record. Some students were more willing to share their opinions.
“There are way more places to eat at the University of Calgary,” said Carmen Moscibrodzki. “Things are also overpriced here, especially the hot dogs.”
If Sodexo is committed to providing service year-round, why is it ok for them to consistently lay-off employees (or give them next-to-no hours) during the slow season, and have ridiculously short hours during the spring, summer, and breaks? How are other users of MRU benefiting from this arrangement? Cont. Ed, Conservatory, Recreation, spring semester, (etc) students, staff and clients are missing out on this “commitment”. When you are taking a class in EB, and there is a coffee shop right next to your classroom (which is closed), when you’re coming to watch your kid’s swim lesson and the juice bar is in sight (but closed), crossing campus to go to Wyckham House isn’t the best option, not if every student and user of food services at MRU is giving up the options of a free-market system because of this contracted “commitment”.
Another point I would like to see the Reflector cover on this issue is the idea of ethical purchasing. Has anyone seen the major Labour Relations complaints Sodexo is facing in other countries?
I read about the strike in Philadelphia, but I haven’t seen anything else. Feel free to send details to firstname.lastname@example.org
”He listed several examples of rival businesses including Tim Hortons and Good Earth, Far East Fusion and Edo Japan, and Mr. Sub and Subway.”
Well, this is a misleading statement if I ever heard one. Mr. Sub and Tim Hortons are run by Sodoex (or however you spell it) that is why staff and students can purchase these for meetings. and as for Good earth, far east, edo, and subway. these are in the W. House which is owned by the students association and if we were to buy from here for our meetings then we’d have to stay in W. House which is not always the most helpful option, especially when we have resource rooms on campus.