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Welcome to the Food Service Industry! An introduction from UNITE HERE’s Stir It Up Campaign and the Real Food Challenge. Operating cafeterias ourselves is kind of a pain. generic CEO or university president. Campus dining is big business. They’re huge.

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Welcome to the Food Service Industry!An introduction fromUNITE HERE’s Stir It Up Campaignand the Real Food Challenge


Operating cafeterias ourselves is kind of a pain.

generic CEO or university president

they re huge

Campus dining is big business

They’re huge.

In 2008 the university food service industry generated

$18 billion in sales in the US alone.

70% of that revenue went to private companies.


It is the biggest contracted food service segment in North America

32% of the $41 billion generated by the private institutional food service industry in the USA in 2008 was in campus dining.

they re huge1

So the companies are huge

They’re huge.

2009 Revenue: $20.3 billion

2009 Revenue: $22.7 billion

2009 Revenue: $19.8 billion

2009 Revenue: $12.3 billion

Based in London

386,000 employees worldwide

Based in Philadelphia

255,000 employees worldwide

Based in Paris

380,000 employees worldwide


Quick Exercise:How does it break down in your city? What schools are self-operated? What company is at each school?Helpful hint: Compass Group owns Bon Appetit, Chartwell’s and Eurest, the company names you may be more familiar with on campus.


Working Full Time to Live in Poverty

(Overall Food Service Industry)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that food service workers across the industry face very low wages. Here are some of the mean annual incomes for common classifications in the industry:

$23,870: mean annual income for “Cooks, Institution and Cafeteria”

$22,050: the 2009 federal poverty line for a family of four.

$20,420: mean annual income for “Food Preparation Workers”

$18,990: mean annual income for “Counter Attendants, Cafeteria, Food Concession, and Coffee Shop”

$18,330: mean annual income for “Dishwashers”


A Troublesome Supply Chain



Food Service Company

Food Distributor

To the casual student observer, the supply chain may look like this picture.

Instead, the more complicated supply chain may incentivize food that doesn’t meet “real food” standards.

Food Service Company

(Corporate office)

Weekly Compliance Numbers

Preferred / Exclusive Vendor Status

Bonuses, Promotions

$ - Volume discounts or “kickbacks”

Food Distributor

Food Service Company (Local Manager)



meanwhile a big squeeze impacts food and workers across the supply chain
Meanwhile, a BIG SQUEEZE impacts food and workers across the supply chain.

John Deere


Bank Loans




Food Company /







meanwhile a big squeeze impacts food and workers across the supply chain1
Meanwhile, a BIG SQUEEZE impacts food and workers across the supply chain.

Capital Investment

Bank Loans

University demands

Commodity prices

Food Service Company







And Universities on the Hook

University food service contracts often contain capital investment clauses. This means that the food service company invests money—sometimes millions of dollars—into the infrastructure of the campus.

The university then has to pay back the company over a number of years. Until the money is paid back, the university is in debt to the company.

universities are vital to the companies profits because
Universities are vital to the companies’ profits because…

$ $ $ $

$ $ $ $

1.) High volume sales and

2.) Guaranteed


Meal plan swipe


So, how do we influence the situation?

We may look at our campus food relationship like this:

Food Service Company


Us Students

Our Money, Our Suggestions

but a closer look reveals that our universities have the power
But a closer look reveals that our Universities have the power.

The School


~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~ ~ ~



Food Service Company

Us Students



university contract process explained
University Contract Process Explained





The university will draft a RFP, which describes in detail what a company would be required to do. They issue the RFP to potential bidders – companies who could do the job.

Companies put together their proposals and submit them to the University. Their proposals describe in detail how they would run the operation, as well as financial plans.

The University makes a decision based on the proposals. There may be a committee of administrators that makes the final choice.


So, we have a lot of power. And, we’re not dealing with Wal Mart here. The big food service companies have actually shown an ability to cooperate in some campaigns. Students have had a real impact in making these changes happen.

our power has huge potential
Our power has huge potential.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers reached an agreement with Compass Group, Aramark and Sodexo through the Student-Farmworker Alliance’s campus-based Dine with Dignity campaign. At least with Compass the agreement didn’t just apply to campus cafeterias – it applied to all of Compass Group’s divisions!


Workers Unionize with UNITE HERE

Joining a union is one way campus dining workers change their working conditions. Standing together workers have won real improvements, including better wages, benefits and job security.

  • Wesleyan University:
    • $21.65 starting wage (first cook)
    • Free family healthcare benefits
  • Trinity College:
    • $21.50 starting wage (head baker)
    • Free family healthcare benefits

Connecticut campus dining workers and active

members of UNITE HERE


Students and Workers Stand Together!

UNITE HERE has been involved in many campaigns where students and campus dining workers stood together to fight for economic justice.

Hunter College: Students rallied with workers and threatened a boycott of the cafeteria in a campaign to protect full family health benefits.

Loyola University Chicago: Hundred of students supported workers in a successful struggle to win union recognition

UNITE HERE Local 100 members at Hunter College during a lunchtime work stoppage, 2009.

student success winning real food
Student Success winning Real Food

Making just and sustainable food a purchasing priority means millions of university food dollars moving away from corporate giants and toward local, fair and sustainable farms and food suppliers.

  • University of California—Irvine
    • Aramark agrees to 20% Real Food by 2015 (apx $850K)
  • Brown University
    • Students audit food purchasing and win commitment to move from 15% to 35% Real Food by 2014 (apx $2 million)

Students rally outside at UNC Chapel Hill during the 2010 Southeast Youth Food Activist Summit.


Students Stand with Farmers

Student solidarity and a university commitment can make a huge difference in the lives of small farmers and grower cooperatives.

University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill:

Persistent lobbying by students forced Aramark to buck usual corporate policy and purchase local, grass-feed beef from Cane Creek Farm.

With more lobbying, purchases increased from 100lbs of beef/week to 400lbs. Now Eliza and Can Creek supply 5 colleges in the area.

join a campaign near you www stiritupcampaign org www unitehere org www realfoodchallenge org

Join a campaign near you!