Two months after voting to oust Wellesley school food service provider Chartwells, the Wellesley School Committee voted unanimously last week to enter into contract negotiations with the New York-based Whitsons Culinary Group.
The school district’s business manager, Judy Belliveau, described Whitsons as the best choice out of five vendors that submitted proposals for the contract. Chartwells submitted a proposal, but did not meet the district’s minimum qualifications, she said.
Though the district is still in the process of negotiating a contract with Whitsons, Belliveau said, the terms will include annual $90,000 administrative and management fees that the district will pay to Whitsons.
Whitsons has also committed to investing $57,174 in equipment and signage to improve the food service program, she said.
The district will negotiate a three-year contract with Whitsons, but will decide on a year-by-year basis whether to renew it, Belliveau said.
Whitsons will be taking control of a food service program that has weathered a torrent of complaints from parents and students over the past year.
Chartwells, which is set to finish its first and only year serving the district at the end of this month, came in for heavy criticism over the taste of the food, nutrition, and preparation methods.
While Whitsons charges $15,000 less than Chartwells did in administrative and management fees, it does not guarantee the same returns for the district.
The contract that Chartwells signed guaranteed a profit for the schools of $101,268, while Whitsons guarantees only that the district breaks even, according to Belliveau.
However, Chartwells will not return the promised profit, she said, and by contract could forfeit up to $75,000 to cover the difference.
She said she did not know how much Chartwells missed the mark by, because the fiscal year is not over.
Belliveau said that the district was not concerned by the lack of a guaranteed return in deciding on Whitsons.
“Bottom line is, we have to break even,” she said.
“We’re not looking for the most return; we want something that will be realistic. What Whitsons proposed is realistic.”