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Released May 11, 2004


HATTIESBURG -- Dining and shopping on the Hattiesburg campus of The University of Southern Mississippi will have a new look, taste and feel for students, faculty and staff after July 1. The university is seeking permission from the state college board for Aramark to outsource its food service and for Barnes and Noble to outsource its bookstore.

Current food service and bookstore employees will maintain their positions, working for Aramark and Barnes and Noble. The staff will receive a five percent pay raise when the businesses take over in July.

"We made it clear in our discussions with these companies that our current personnel were very important to us, and we required their written obligation that the employees would be taken care of," said Gregg Lassen, the university's chief financial officer. "With their raises and improved health care benefits, I think they will be really happy. They will still be recognized as a part of the Southern Miss family though."

Two committees consisting of faculty, staff and students traveled to the University of Alabama and Georgia Tech to compare vendors, tour facilities and talk with employees, faculty and students. The committee judged vendors on quality of food, quality and quantity of merchandise, vision for the future and revenue projections.

Outsourcing services on university campuses has become a rising national trend. In 2002, UNICCO Service Company, a leading integrated facilities service company, surveyed 112 schools regarding outsourcing. Of the schools surveyed, 61 percent outsource food service and 52 percent outsource their bookstores.

Students on the Hattiesburg campus proposed an off-campus meal plan to the administration last fall semester. "We recognized our students' interest in the variety of food offered, access and pricing," said Joe Paul, vice president for student affairs. "We believe the food plan offered by Aramark will 'wow' our students and keep more of them on campus between classes, at the end of the day, and on weekends."

Jared Loftus, who served as student body president from 2003-04, said: "I think it's going to bring us to a higher level of being able to offer better services and options to the students. It will certainly be a great selling point for the university when we are talking with prospective students about our campus and what we have to offer."

The proposed residential restaurant, RFoC, Real Food on Campus, will be located in the University Commons in 2004 and will move to the new addition of the R.C. Cook University Union in 2006. Students will enjoy warm breads fresh out of the oven, rotisserie chicken, made-to-order grilled panini sandwiches and cookies baked right before their eyes. With its unique style of menu planning, food presentation and service philosophy, RFoC is founded on field innovation, best practices, and continuous improvement - not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all program.

The former Power Plant building across from Cook Library will be the home of A Fresh Food Company, which is modeled after a European marketplace and features upscale, authentic foods from around the world. This residential dining location is scheduled for completion by fall of 2005.

The meal-plan rates for the current year range from $835 to $985 per semester. The rates for plans with Aramark range from $900 to $1,000, but these plans all offer a new feature called Flex Bucks. Plans have a range of $75 to $200 Flex Bucks that may be used at any of the locations on campus, including the convenience store, so there is additional flexibility for students.

Proposed offerings for retail dining include Einstein Bros. Bagels & Café located in the International Education Center, which is currently under construction. In the current Seymour's location, plans are underway for a Chick-fil-A, Home Zone, Montague's Deli, Salad Garden, Bene Pizza and Pasta and an Express. The Union atrium area would house a Java City. This dining area will expand with the construction of the new addition to the R.C. Cook University Union, which is scheduled for completion in 2007.

Pan Geos, where diners can order freshly made wrap sandwiches and enjoy exhibition-style sauté cooking, will be located in the Payne Center atrium.

In the freshman quad area, students will be able to enjoy food and beverages from a specialty sub shop, Bene Pizza and Pasta, and Freshens Smoothies. A contemporary convenience store, C3: Convenience to the Third Power, will also be located in the quad and will provide shoppers with snacks, candy, beverages, chips, fruits, sundries and more.

Cook Library, located in the heart of campus, will house a Starbucks in the first floor lobby.

Hillcrest Residence Hall will have a Pan Geos in 2004 and will expand to offer Montague's Deli and C3 in 2007. Residents of Elam Arms will enjoy an expanded menu with a greater variety and selection of products at the Elam Arms Diner.

Barnes and Noble is a nationally recognized bookstore that will move into the current bookstore location in 2004 and expand into the new Student Life Center when it is completed. "The bookstore at Georgia Tech was amazing," said Beth Cooksey, a member of the committee. "Our university community will love it, and I think it will draw people from the community onto campus to shop."

If approved by the College Board, both Aramark and Barnes and Noble will begin work July 1. "We expect their impact to be almost immediate," Lassen said. "I know our university community will be really pleased with the outcome."


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May 14, 2004 12:25 PM