As a higher education institution, you may not realize the benefits of adding a catering program to your labor retention strategy. By implementing a full catering service, you open the door to more jobs year-round so your food staff can feel at ease knowing the summer months won’t mean unemployment for them. Learn how big-name universities are leveraging cooperative contracts through OMNIA Partners to ensure that they are getting the best value out of their food service distributor.
Why Universities Like Texas Tech are Leveraging Cooperative Purchasing to Implement Catering Programs
Higher education institutions have always had some form of catering operation, due to events and activities always taking place on campus that require food service. These events can include:
➡️ Small events such as board and advisory meetings that will need grazing-style
➡️ Larger end-of-school-year celebratory gatherings for graduations,
➡️ Social gatherings like dances, etc.
Schools like Texas Tech University (TTU) and Purdue University utilize a cooperative contract through OMNIA Partners to ensure that they are getting the best value out of their food service distributor. Not only does a cooperative contract negate the need for a lengthy RFP process but it also allows the institution to leverage more purchasing power than they could on their own to realize deeper savings and enjoy additional value-adds like inflation and market swing avoidance, analytics to identify additional savings opportunities, and much more.
Keep reading to learn how cooperative purchasing assisted Texas Tech University and Purdue University with food distribution and equipment during catering season, while providing additional revenue and benefits for food service operations.
Texas Tech University views its catering operation as a community builder and an integral part of the university, says Kirk Rodriguez, Senior Director, Hospitality Services and Student Union & Activities: “In a lot of ways our catering department is the connection to the campus community. It’s often a link to campus organizations because the catering crews are frequently meeting and working with all levels of the TTU community, and off the campus as well.”
Rodriguez runs a good-sized food establishment. About 1,000 are employed across all of TTU’s Hospitality Services. This workforce includes full- and part-time staff, temporary workers and students. He says the primary focus of his catering team is the university community. “With a campus of 40,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff, we do a very healthy catering business.”
His department also caters to off-campus venues and events. “We are one of only two or three catering operations that can handle very large events in Lubbock.”
In partnership with OMNIA Partners, Texas Tech leverages a cooperative contract to provide their students, staff, and stakeholders with a full-service catering program. The team is able to utilize this program to offer job security as well as food service that creates a community on campus.
Dodging Seasonal Layoffs
Avoiding layoffs during slow periods is another benefit achieved through TTU’s catering group as the unit operates year-round, including the summer. This way, administrators can escape furloughing workers and keep staff busy during a potentially light calendar.
Rodriguez explains: “In our case, a big part of what we do during the summer is freshman orientation. This activity can attract, depending on the class size, 5,000 to 6,000 students and their parents and grandparents in a lot of cases. And so our catering department primarily handles that piece of the business. So for our university food service department, the catering operation helps us maintain employment for staffers when it is typically not a very busy time of the year.”
College Catering Gives a Boost to Staff Recruiting & Skills Development
Another benefit of TTU’s catering enterprise is that it enables Hospitality Services staffers to develop new foodservice skills.
“We are always hiring front-line staff and servers. We have a culinary training program that our executive chef leads. It’s a two-year culinary program that we use to improve kitchen skills of our workforce. The program helps our workers to become trained culinarians and then they can work to pursue their certified executive chef credentials," Rodriguez explains.
Rodriguez adds that TTU has an extensive training program for all new employees (including catering staffers) to help them develop more skills. “The program is a combination of university-required training and then departmental instruction.”
Cooperative contracts from OMNIA Partners help in facilitating Texas Tech’s catering program, Kirk Rodriguez believes. “They help us manage our business. They are good partners. We want to lean on them for whatever needs we might have to help us maintain and grow. So it comes down to having a good partnership.”
Purdue University: Another Success Story
Founded in the fall of 2020, the catering program within Purdue University Dining & Culinary is thriving. The catering operation, called Purdue Food Company Catering, serves a variety of customers, says Gretchen A. Jewell, Associate Director of Auxiliary Dining Services.
Purdue University uses a cooperative contract through OMNIA Partners to make this program possible. The catering operation, available on-campus only, works with the following:
➡️ Student organizations including clubs and student government,
➡️ Student Life initiatives and programs,
➡️ Academic departments for students-focused events, and
➡️ Purdue student learning communities.
Skills development takes place in the Purdue operation that enhances workers’ resumes, Jewell explains. “Our catering employees learn a variety of skill sets. Some are job-specific, such as customer service and event setup.” She says other skills taught are more job-transferable, such as delegation, leadership, and organization.
Purdue’s food service program enables career growth for its staffers which aids in recruiting and retention. Jewell explains: “Purdue Dining & Culinary offers many types of professional development through certified training courses, industry conferences, and professional development opportunities.”
Purdue Food Company Catering aims for revenue growth and potential build-out, Jewell says. “An expansion in services that we provide and customers that we serve is always on the horizon. We’re always looking at new ways to drive revenue through our services and menu options we provide.”
To discover how Purdue University leveraged a cooperative contract through OMNIA Partners to secure better cost savings, product sourcing, and customized reporting for their food service operations, click here.
About OMNIA Partners
OMNIA Partners is the nation’s largest and most experienced cooperative purchasing organization dedicated to public sector procurement. Our immense purchasing power and industry-leading suppliers have produced a comprehensive portfolio of cooperative contracts and partnerships, making OMNIA Partners the most valued and trusted resource for organizations nationwide. To browse our entire portfolio of food solutions, click below.