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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Friday, June 14, 2024
The Echo

Parkhurst contract terminated

Pests an issue at the Dining Commons

Taylor announced April 18 that it will be ending its relationship with Parkhurst Dining at the conclusion of the academic year.

The decision to part ways with Parkhurst was announced in an email from Stephen Olson, vice president for finance and chief financial officer.

“Last year, after a long partnership with another dining company, we changed to Parkhurst Dining, and we were excited about this new partnership,” Olson’s email said. “We are grateful for the good work many on the Parkhurst team have sought to contribute. That said, it has become evident that it is best for Taylor to partner with another provider.”

Olson said it was concerning when Parkhurst continued to repeat basic mistakes such as poor line management, condiment and silverware shortages and food not being ready or properly prepared.

The new provider will be AVI Fresh, the country’s biggest family-owned and operated food and hospitality provider. Olson said Taylor was aware of AVI Fresh back when the university was deciding on a new dining provider.

Before Parkhurst, the university had been with Creative Dining Services for nearly three decades. 

AVI Fresh has relationships with other Midwest colleges such as Kenyon College and Oberlin College and Conservatory, according to their website.

Multiple Indiana news outlets reported that 178 Parkhurst employees will be laid-off as a result of the contract termination. Olson said AVI Fresh is interviewing several of the current members of Parkhurst. With AVI Fresh taking over next year, Olson is optimistic about the future of Taylor Dining.

“While we are truly disappointed that our selection of Parkhurst last year did not work out as we intended, we have great optimism for the future with AVI,” Olson wrote in his April 18 email.

A rocky first year for Parkhurst intensified recently after the discovery of a pest issue at the Hodson Dining Commons (DC). As a result, the DC was forced to temporarily close, leaving the Boren Center as the only major dining option on campus.

A January 12 retail food establishment inspection report from the Grant County Health Department did not mention pests. Critical items on the report included a hand sink in the dish wash room with no available hot water and a dirty knife atop clean utensils in the fruit preparation area.

According to the report, Stephanie Lang, interim general manager for Parkhurst, placed a work order to fix the sink and “Re-trained Staff on proper cleaning techniques + putting items away.” 

The pest issue at the DC appears to not be completely resolved. Olson said the university is currently working with Ecolab, a pest control firm, to address the situation.

In an April 19 email, Olson provided an update on the work taking place at Hodson. He also provided an update regarding student meal plans for the remainder of the semester.

“Resolving this type of issue takes continued work over a period of time,” Olson wrote in the April 19 email. “For your convenience and comfort, your meal plan can be used at the DC or Stu for all available meals for the rest of the semester.”

In the past, only seniors have been allowed to use unlimited meal swipes at the Stu, while underclassmen were allowed seven meals per week.

Per Olson’s April 19 message, that rule is being waived for the remainder of the semester.

He said $9 million will be used over the course of the next two summers to renovate Hodson, including the kitchen, seating and restrooms.

“Improving dining at Taylor is among our leadership team’s top priorities,” a statement from President Michael Lindsay said. “I am grateful for the leadership our CFO, Stephen Olson, has provided over this year and am confident in his ability to lead us in the way forward. As you know, we have taken decisive action to address the issues. These include dedicating millions of dollars to renovations in the Dining Commons, which will start just days after Commencement, and changing dining providers as we work to see significant improvement in the near future.”