Union food service provider threatens to terminate contract with K-State


Chartwells, the food service provider for the K-State Student Union, submitted a letter to Union director Bill Smriga stating the company’s intention to terminate its contract with K-State unless the contract is restructured. Chartwells operates restaurants in the Union and around campus and provides catering services to customers from throughout the university.

The letter was sent on Sept. 24 by Chartwells CEO Steven Sweeney to Smriga and Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students. According to the letter, Chartwells “has sustained substantial financial losses operating the K-State food service program.” 

“We cannot continue to sustain such losses,” wrote Sweeney in the letter.

Sweeney noted that he hoped K-State and Chartwells could agree upon changes to the contract that would “improve the financial viability” of Chartwells’ operation.

“In the contract, either party can terminate the agreement,” Bosco said on Tuesday. “They’re exercising that option by giving us 90 days of notice.”

According to Smriga, the contract between the two parties is 18 months old, and was bid on by Chartwells and its competitor Sodexo. Smriga said that Sodexo is among the options to replace Chartwells if an agreement isn’t reached.

“As of today, we kind of have both options on the table, and we’re taking a very close look to decide the best direction for us to go,” he said. “We’re on a tight time frame. Our goal is to make a decision on or before Nov. 1. If a transition were to take place, we need to leave enough time for Sodexo to plan and implement the transition.”

Smriga and Bosco both stressed that, should Chartwells back out of the contract, the impact on students would be minimal. The transition would take place during the break between semesters, which takes place Dec. 15 through Jan. 18.

“In either case, we’re absolutely confident that we will continue to provide food service in the Union and catering service to all our customers, uninterrupted,” Smriga said.

He said if the contract does transfer to Sodexo, the restaurants offered in the Union will remain in place. Smriga also noted that Sodexo promised there would be no danger of Chartwells’ current hourly employees losing their jobs or taking a cut in pay.

“They’ve promised not only to honor current salaries but to honor or improve on current benefits,” he said.

Matthew Pray, director of Chartwells at K-State, said Chartwells is currently involved with negotiations to stay with K-State.

“We’re trying to come to an agreement that works for both sides,” said Pray, who declined further comment on the situation.