Sproutworks is taking over the NYU Shanghai canteen beginning May 2nd, NYU Shanghai Campus and Facilities announced on April 18 in a school-wide email. Sproutworks will be providing meal service for three months that will consist of their usual menu of healthy sandwiches and salads, as well as a Chinese menu created specifically for NYU Shanghai.
This is simply an interim solution as NYU Shanghai begins a bid process to review bids from at least three different companies for the three-year contract, as stipulated by local regulations.
NYU Shanghai reached out to Sproutworks due to the previous catering of events on campus and the relationship between Associate Dean of Students David Pe and Sproutworks Owner Malcolm Shu, who attended UCLA together. “Sproutworks had catered a lot of events and student and faculty really liked the food,” Pe said. “They were willing to consider a different business model as our population mirrors their customer base. We’re excited because the university has always wanted to be healthier.”
The other main factor in the decision to hire Sproutworks was the lack of corporate layers. “From NineMasters and Compass, we learned that the management layer is a lot to try to manage and that the communication from on the ground to corporate had a large gap,” Pe explained. “We wanted to work with a restaurant versus a vendor with mass production.” As a restaurant, Sproutworks will operate the canteen like their storefront and plans on having the canteen open all day to cut down on a lunchtime rush that requires lots of servers and instead cut down on labor costs, but still produce fresh foods. “They have talked about made-to-order options and pop-ups of different types of cuisines,” Pe said, noting that ice cream from Gracie’s was an idea that had been discussed.
Sproutworks is still finalizing their menu and prices that will be offered in the canteen. “They have the indication and understand our need to be affordable and still maintain the quality of their brand. We’re hoping it will be a win-win situation where they can make the profit they need and still be within our budget,” Pe said. Shu, reached by email, said that the prices will be in the 2-50 RMB range.
This will be a transition in terms of food and management style from Compass Group and Pe urged the community to be understanding and recognize the challenges as Sproutworks takes over. “They have been very open-minded and the community needs to be patient. It’s not going to be perfect on Day One,” Pe said. “Patrons should make those feedback points from a place of improvement rather than complaining for the sake of complaining.” Shu indicated that Sproutworks will be open to feedback via email and will arrange for regular meetings with the community as they get settled.
Pe emphasized that this will be a trial period and that if the community does not give their full support, it will be difficult to convince them to stay at NYU Shanghai for a full three year contract. “If we aren’t willing to be realistic with what it costs to run a program, then we will continue in the same path with NineMasters and Compass,” Pe said. “We need to be more open and more willing to understand what goes into running a food program for the raw materials and labor.”
This article was written by Allison Chesky. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: NYU Shanghai