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story | Harrison Linder, Contributing Reporter
photo | Peh Yilin
Yale-NUS College’s contract with SATS, the current dining hall operator, will expire by the end of the academic year. According to Mr. Andrew McGeehan, the Senior Manager for Residential Life and representative for the Dean of Students Office on the Dining Hall Committee, the College will reopen the tender process for a potential dining hall operator. SATS may reapply for the contract again.
Similar to the first tender process three years ago, the process will begin with the establishment of a basic criteria that potential dining hall operators will need to meet. According to Mr. McGeehan, “This criteria will likely comprise of a 30-day sample menu that includes vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and halal food options; confirmation that they will be able to do a tasting on campus, as well as a strategy on the layout of the food, possible themed dishes they can provide, a sample grab-n-go menu, etc.” The tender will also include other basic details like payment and contract length. Once this has been posted on a Singapore-wide database, dining hall providers will be able to apply for the job.
When it has been verified that an applicant has met the basic criteria described, they will be invited to campus for a tasting. The tasting itself will be conducted entirely by up to one hundred students who will judge the food based on a criteria created by the Dining Hall Committee. Mr. McGeehan said, “We haven’t confirmed how we are going to invite students to the tasting but we will be inviting local students, international students, students with allergies, vegetarians, vegans, plus those who eat halal and gluten-free.”
The College chose SATS as the most suitable candidate after the tender process three years ago. While the prospect of a new dining hall provider is quite exciting, the prospects of a greatly improved dining hall experience are quelled because there may not be that many dining hall operators to choose from. Mr. McGeehan said, “It seems like there are not that many caterers in Singapore that can operate dining halls as big as ours.” There will likely only be around three that end up coming to campus for a tasting.
In the three years that SATS has operated the Yale-NUS dining halls, the Yale-NUS administration has been fairly satisfied with SATS’ performance. Mr. McGeehan said, “SATS has been very responsive when there has been feedback.” For instance, thanks to student feedback, SATS has introduced many vegetarian and vegan options, provided more fresh vegetables, and made the breakfast selection more comprehensive.
Because of the vast variety of people they serve, the Dining Hall Committee has a tough time satisfying everyone. Mr. McGeehan said, “What I’ve always noticed is that once you make one change there is a different group of students who do not like that. For example, there used to be pizza every day and some students said – that’s not healthy and we want more variety; and then once SATS changed it, other students were upset that pizza was no longer being served. The Dining Hall Committee and SATS are consistently balancing students’ needs and interests.”
Furthermore, the diversity of the Yale-NUS student body makes this task even harder. Mr. McGeehan said, “Students want to feel a connection with a food that they are used to, and some students aren’t used to any of the dining hall food.” The next dining hall operator will likely deal with similar issues.
The tastings for potential dining hall providers will take place in semester two. Those who are keen on participating in the decision process should keep an eye out for announcements about the tastings or reach out to the Dining Hall Committee directly.