Home » UK to begin negotiations toward dining public-private partnership

UK to begin negotiations toward dining public-private partnership

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 4, 2014) —University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto on Monday directed UK’s purchasing division to begin negotiations with vendors toward the goal of creating a public-private partnership for dining services.

Dr. Eli Capilouto is president of the University of Kentucky.
Dr. Eli Capilouto is president of the University of Kentucky.

“We have a very good dining operation and exemplary staff. That has never been in question and it shouldn’t be now,” Capilouto said. “But the most important question is how do we ensure that we have the best possible service for all those we serve going forward — most significantly our students?”

After months of review, including two committees that analyzed proposals and visited several campuses, along with a number of public forums, Capilouto said it is clear that “we must adapt and grow as the needs and desires of our campus community change and expand.”

That can best be accomplished, he said, by seeking a partner that can invest millions of dollars in upgrading dining facilities across the UK campus, offer more convenient hours and expand food options, including healthier choices for customers.

The university’s purchasing division will now begin negotiations with one or more partners toward the goal of finalizing an agreement with one partner. Capilouto will review and approve any final proposed agreement. Significant changes to facilities or additional facilities would be brought to the UK Board of Trustees for its consideration.

Eric Monday, UK’s executive vice president for finance and administration, said several conditions will be met as part of any final public-private partnership agreement:

♦ Employees with UK’s dining services as of Feb. 13, 2013 will be ensured of continued employment.

♦ Student workers will continue to be employed with dining services.

♦ Partnerships with existing campus outlets such as the Lemon Tree Restaurant and Butcher Shop will be maintained.

♦ Any agreement will make explicit goals and commitments with respect to local food sourcing and the Kentucky Proud program.

The agreement will be a public document that all of the university’s stakeholders can review.

“In fall 2014, we will house over 21 percent more students than we did this past fall,” Monday said. “Such growth is, without question, the right thing to do. We know from research that students learn better and do better when they live on campus. We must have facilities in dining and other areas that support that growth and that desire for expanded and healthier food options. Currently, we do not.”

Moreover, Monday said there is not the capacity financially to expand those offerings at UK.

“A partnership with a third-party with extensive expertise in this area offers the opportunity for millions of dollars in facility investment over the next several years. We simply do not have that capacity internally. Nor can we expect the taxpayers of this state to foot that bill,” he said.

All but two of Kentucky’s eight public universities have moved to public-private partnerships for dining operations, Monday said. UK and Murray State University remain the only institutions with internally run dining operations. And 10 of the 14 Southeastern Conference schools use public-private partnerships for dining.

“We must, however, develop a Kentucky partnership that honors UK’s unique values and needs. That is the goal as we move forward with negotiations,” Monday said. “It is an unwavering expectation that we will have of any potential partner. They will help us maintain our commitments. They will help us continue to honor our values as an institution. We must now seek an agreement — with tough, explicit expectations outlined in a management agreement and operating contract — that will help us ensure those commitments are met.”