By SUSAN JONES
Julie Bannister, assistant vice chancellor for auxiliary services, updated the Senate Council’s Plant Utilization and Planning Committee on several student-related initiatives on Nov. 18, but tucked into her presentation were a few tidbits of interest to faculty and staff.
Forbes Street Market
The small grocery store that replaced 7-Eleven on Forbes Avenue near the William Pitt Union has had a great first year, Bannister said.
Run by Sodexo under a contract with the University, the market offers a variety of foods that were missing in the Oakland landscape since IGA closed in 2017.
“Forbes Street Market has been very successful for us, for a campus option and a community option,” Bannister said. The products offered have constantly changed during the year.
Students can write on a board in the store anything they would like to see offered, and Bannister said they’ve had lots of feedback. She said they constantly review pricing.
“If students say it’s something they can get cheaper elsewhere, we challenge Sodexo to find similar products at lower prices,” she said. If there’s a more-expensive organic option, there also will be a non-organic substitute.
One way they’ve kept prices down is partnering with local grocer Giant Eagle to provide salads, sandwiches and wraps, which have been very popular. The store also offers items from other local providers, such as DeLallo’s and Pittsburgh Pickle.
The contract with campus dining provider Sodexo expires in July 1, 2020. Sodexo has been Pitt’s dining partner for 20 years, Bannister said.
“We’d become kind of complacent,” she said, but now they are looking for one or more partners to provide campus dining; food for premiere catering and sports and leisure activities; and to run convenience and grocery stores. Sustainability is one of the major issues involved in the request for proposals put out earlier this year.
Sodexo is just one of the companies involved in the bidding process, she said. University officials plan to evaluate the bid proposals in December. The selection and contract negotiations should be completed by March. Then planning for the contract transition or renewal would take place from March to July.
The contract with Sodexo is consistently Pitt’s largest payment to an independent contractor annually. In fiscal year 2017-18, the University paid Sodexo just over $39 million, according to Pitt’s IRS 990 form.
The little rolling food delivery robots are still very much in a trial phase, Bannister said.
“We’re doing a soft, slow launch with them,” she said. Oakland serves as a unique environment for the company because of its urban setting.
The devices are 90 percent autonomous, Bannister said, and currently only pick up from three locations. The trial phase started in September, but was halted briefly in October after an engineering doctoral student who uses a wheelchair raised some safety concerns about the robots stopping in curb ramps. (Read more about it in the Pitt News.)
“Anytime we hear a problem, we’re on the phone with them,” Bannister said. “They want it to be a success; we want it to be a success.”
David Salcido, vice president of the University Senate, suggested that the signage on the robots include where to call or email any concerns.
Proship open to all
Bannister said the new Panther Post has received 20,000 packages since the beginning of the semester. The remodeled area in the Litchfield Towers Lobby now operates like Amazon lockers, which allow students to pick up packages at their convenience.
The new Panther Post also has something to offer for faculty and staff, she said. ProShip allows anyone in the Pitt community get discounted rates on shipping parcels. It incorporates all of the negotiated rates Pitt has with its carriers to get a complete picture of pricing at any given moment. This service can be used for personal or department purposes. ProShip can be accessed by anyone with a Pitt login.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 412-648-4294.
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