In anticipation of the expiring contract between the university and Sodexo, Mason Dining has opened bidding for vendors who are interested in providing dining services.

Though the contract is supposed to run through 2014, eight companies were sent invitations to bid for the job this fall since the university is considering major renovations to the Johnson Center. The new contract will begin on July 1.

According to the Request for Proposals document, the contract vendor will receive a proposed goal guaranteed minimum of 22 percent of gross sales or $4 million each year, whichever is greater. If the contract is extended, the goal for the goal guaranteed minimum will increase to 22 percent of gross sales or $9.5 million whichever is greater.

The document also outlines the university’s expectations for each dining service to maintain and improve dining services and campuses, along with instructions for moving along in the bidding process.

“I want to make it clear that we are not kicking Sodexo out,” said Mark Kraner, Executive Director of Campus Retail Operations. “This is mandatory. We must go out to bid every once in a while. My job is to work with the contract partners to provide services and make sure that the goals of the university are being met and the students are being served.”

Four potential vendors, Sodexo, Chartwells, Aramark and Thompson Hospitality attended a meeting on Sept. 21 to secure their bidding positions. The companies have until Oct. 3 to ask any clarification questions before they submit their proposals. In the first week of November, the bids must be returned to the university.

The university has hired a consulting firm to evaluate the bids and will recruit from faculty, staff, student government and other facets of the university for their input on the different vendors.

At the end of November, the bids will be narrowed down and questions can be sent back to the vendors for clarification. Companies will then be brought back for further interviews. The expected date of award for the vendor the university chooses is Dec. 3.

Dining is the university’s largest contract, which Kraner estimated to be worth upwards of $400 million over a ten-year period. Typically, contracts for food services are written for five-year periods with an option to renew for five more. This year, dining services handled $28 million of business, but Kraner estimates that with continued growth in residence and retail the budget could soon increase to $40 million.