A look into the food ordering process at UConn

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The UConn Dining Services Commissary Warehouse is the source of pastries distributed across the UConn campus. (Photo by Judah Shingleton/The Daily Campus)

Tracey Roy, the associate director of procurement at the University of Connecticut, is no stranger to the bustle of ordering food products for students. From entering changing sets of data into her computer to consulting individuals moving products around campus, Roy’s work day is rarely slow.

Roy said the process of selecting what types of food to order for the dining units on campus is different for each product, since the needs of students and faculty are constantly changing.

“Either we have a whole list of vendors that provide us with new things coming out, we go to food shows, we go to vendor shows or we use word of mouth from students, other schools or the industry,” Roy said. “We then bring them [the products] in and look at them for quality and price point.”

The process by which each dining unit and food facility on campus communicates with procurement and ordering is complex, Roy said.

Robert Landolphi, the university’s culinary operations manager, first writes menus for each of the eight dining units on campus. The menus are then given to each unit manager to enter into the online system called FoodPro.

“The computer system kind of does the ordering for them [the managers] based on their prior sales of that item,” Roy said. “So say a dining hall goes through 600 portions of chicken that night. The manager then has to put that in the computer, which computes projections that lets the manager know what they need for next time.”

Roy said procurement is responding for pulling products and going to the respective vendor five days per week. Products are ordered and delivered in a timely fashion, such that, by Wednesday, the university is already gathering products for Friday, Roy said.

“It’s really pretty neat that we don’t have a lot of lead time,” Roy said. “Anything special order, we need about a week, but the majority of the items that we have in the system are probably Monday for Wednesday and Wednesday for Friday, so it’s pretty good.”

The university’s prime vendor is Sysco, which is a mass food production distribution company based out of Rocky Hill. UConn also has contracts with smaller local businesses such as Mountain Dairy for milk products, Norman’s Sugarhouse for maple syrup and Cronin’s for dairy-free ice cream, Roy said.

“We are the number one use of Connecticut produce and we like to be part of the community,” Roy said. “We work hard to find businesses that can handle the distribution for us and bring food to us.”

Roy said most of the vendors the university is signed with must stop at each of the dining units and retail locations on campus. The companies often start their drop-offs as early at 6 a.m. and are typically finished by noon the same day.

Roy and commissary assistant manager Tim Norman are also responsible for working out the logistics with vendors. They handle any delivery issues the companies may have when they arrive on campus.

“So say they [the vendors] have an issue, they’ll let us know and we’ll call the unit and say, ‘Sardilli [a food vendor for UConn] is outside, is there anyway you can help them get to the dock? There seems to be a car blocking it,’” Roy said. “So we’re the main hub of anything that has to do with deliveries.”

After a three or five-year contract with a vendor is up, the university then goes out to bid and see what other products and vendors are on the market, Roy said.

“In this day and age there’s always going to be new products,” Roy said. “You also always want to look and see if you can get another price deal. Our bottom goal is to use the funds we have in a proper way, but at the same time ensure what we’re providing the students with is high quality, so it’s a balance for us.”

Roy said the university prides itself on maintaining positive relationships with numerous vendors that provide food to all dining units and students in Storrs.

“No company is going to be able to provide the best item for every instance,” Roy said. “You just want to make sure you’re getting the best mix you can.”


Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. They can be reached via email at taylor.harton@uconn.edu.

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