Chartwells, a subsidiary of United Kingdom–based Compass Group that operates offices in Grand Rapids and other U.S. cities, won a contract to manage food service for Mt. Pleasant Public Schools in the late 1990s. Under the agreement, all school food service employees except one manager from Chartwells remained employees of the district, complete with unchanged salaries and fringe benefits.
In the first full year, Chartwells has saved the Mt. Pleasant district $113,000. The first $100,000 in savings came because Chartwells, being a large multinational company, can buy larger stores of supplies at a time than any single school district, and suppliers will charge the company less because it buys in bulk. Another $13,000 in savings was achieved simply by streamlining certain operations, such as food preparation and delivery, something the district had been unable to do as effectively as Chartwells.
The food is better, too, and healthier choices such as a salad bar are now available. Student use of the high school cafeteria is up dramatically.
Food service is a popular target for competitive bidding and contracting. In addition to Chartwells, Michigan school districts also have contracted for food services with Aramark–Gourmet, Sodexho Marriott, Canteen Services, and Diamondback Catering.