Housing and Food Services (HFS) director Gary Goldberg recently went to class just like the thousands of students HFS serves every day. Specifically, Goldberg went to NUTR 303: “Neighborhood Nutrition” to talk to approximately 150 students about the new changes happening at UW Dining.
Among the new changes Goldberg discussed, he mentioned something about the current deal the UW has with Subway.
Goldberg and his team members, including administrator for retail dining John Murphy and dining administrator for business operations Dean Masuccio, have made it clear that they don’t approve of the current agreement between the UW and Subway.
HFS signed a 20-year contract with Subway which will expire March 2018.
“[The long-term deal was] kind of unusual because food trends change and would you really want to be locked up in a concept like that for so long?” Goldberg said. “In the case of Subway, we pay them a royalty to have the right to have a Subway here and it’s just more than we pay for Starbucks or any other franchise I’ve paid for in my career. So I want to make sure, before we move ahead with a new agreement, if Subway is really the best solution.”
According to Goldberg, 12.5 percent of every dollar goes to Subway.
“At the end of the day, after we pay all our expenses, we don’t make any money, but they do,” Goldberg said. “They get 12.5 percent of every dollar no matter what and we still have to pay for our employees, foods, and for our lights to be on.”
Until the agreement expires, Goldberg, Murphy, and Masuccio will be doing their due diligence, considering the reasonable steps they need to take in order to make an administrative decision about whether or not to extend the agreement or remove Subway from campus.
The three are hoping to work with students, staff members, employees of UW Dining, the Residential Community Student Association, and ASUW to gather all the appropriate information needed to make this decision.
“We want to explore all of our options and display them for students but also be financially viable — in other words, we don’t want to lose money,” Goldberg said.
They are hoping to get student input because, ultimately, students will be the ones purchasing the food. Goldberg feels the university has the right to explore its options in regards to the space that Subway is renting out right now.
“My typical business philosophy is that I don’t prefer to have a concept on campus that you can get everywhere else,” Goldberg said. “If there’s going to be another sandwich concept then it should be something we create or some other more boutique brand that will be new or exciting.”
Murphy brought up the topic of innovation in regards to food. He said that the UW was heading toward a path of fresh food ideas and that Subway was a “tired” concept.
“I don’t think they have evolved as it relates to healthy eating,” Murphy said. “I think it’s an opportunity for us to really look outside — whether it be internally or find another franchise.”
Goldberg also brought up the point that whatever the Subway space is used for in the future, it would involve more than just the intention of promoting healthy foods. Though this is something the team is keeping in mind, the most important factor is innovation and having foods on campus that differs from that offered around the U-District.
“This is such a big food area and we’re trying to not be redundant with everything else you can get elsewhere,” Goldberg said.
If the new deal with Subway would be another 20-year agreement, the three agreed that they would not extend it. However, they would consider a five-year agreement.
So far a project team has been formed to begin the process of due diligence. Masuccio is in charge of the charter and team that is being assembled to evaluate steps that need to be taken prior to March 2018.
UW Dining has already implemented some new changes that follow its path of food innovation.
The District Market, located in West Campus, will soon have a live sushi bar, beginning March 2017. Additionally, Suzzallo Espresso will be shut down for renovation to create space for the new Starbucks, which is planned to open in September 2017.
Along with all these changes for the UW community comes the change of cost per student. UW Dining has proposed a two-percent increase in each level of the dining expenses, but it has not passed yet. This will most affect students living on campus.
“The ultimate goal is that we want to bring the right services to students and perform better financially,” Goldberg said. “I’m hoping that the two-percent in the eyes of most people is fair because it’s similar or less than inflation and its basically to help us cover our increased cost.”
Reach reporter Praphanit Doowa at email@example.com. Twitter: @prabdoooowa