Aladdin to replace Sodexo food service at West Liberty University this fall

Sodexo Dining services, West Liberty University’s current food vendor, is being replaced by Aladdin Campus Dining on July 1, 2022.

According to WLU’s Director of Purchasing, Patrick Kelly, Sodexo’s contract is set to expire at the end of June. The university is required to put the dining services contract out to bid. Approaching seven vendors to bid — four vendors showed up for the mandatory pre-bid meeting. Vendors who were present at the pre-bid meeting include Aladdin, Aramark, Metz Culinary and Sodexo — with three of the four vendors placing bids. (Aramark was the only vendor who did not place a bid).

After reviewing the technical portion of the bids, a committee interviewed vendors scoring 70% or more in the technical portion. Kelly explained the technical portion of bids as an overview of the company which includes their history, management philosophy, training and ideas on improving campus dining in conjunction with sample menus. The council must also take into consideration the financial portion of the bid.

Students’ current campus food choices include The Marketplace (located in Rogers Hall) and the following located in the union: Jazzman’s Café and Bakery, WOW, Sandella’s Flatbread Café and the mini convenient store, Bear Necessities. When Aladdin takes over this summer, all food options will be replaced. Kelly says Sandella’s will be replaced by Chilaca (a Chipotle style concept), and Jazzman’s will become a We Proudly Serve Starbucks. Meal swipe options will still be in place; however, the replacement for Sodexo dollars is still in the works. “We have not named it yet, although some suggestions have been made including ‘genie dollars’ because they will allow you to buy what you wish,” said Kelly.

With the changes in dining, students can expect a slight increase in prices. “The Board of Governors has improved an increase in board fees for the upcoming year,” explained Kelly. The increase is less than the 7% inflation rate seen within food services, energy and other commodities currently. “The minimal increase reflects the university’s intentions to keep the rates affordable and in line with other schools as well as the providing we received from our vendors,” Kelly said. Kelly stated Aladdin’s proposal for campus dining was ultimately less expensive than Sodexo and “with the proposed meal equivalency actually going up” this will make the swipe more valuable.

“We chose Aladdin Campus Dining as the new vendor based on factors including their ideas on how to improve dining and the financial investment they will be making on campus in the form of renovations, annual investment for upkeep and improvement facilities,” said Kelly.

The incoming vendor must agree to hire all non-management employees for a 90 day trial period at their current salary and benefits, according to the stipulations written in the proposed request. Kelly said it was “very important” to him and the committee to ensure the employees were taken care of and “giving them peace of mind that they would not be losing their jobs just because another vendor comes in.”

Aladdin proposed several “concepts” as Kelly refers to mobile ordering through an app, new vending options like personal pizza and salad vending machines, a Tuk-Tuk truck and new dining plans in the fall of 2023. “Once the contract is finalized, more information including concept drawings will be made available to the campus,” said Kelly.

For more information, please reach out to Annalise Murphy at [email protected]