UW Changes Food Vendor

WISCONSIN (September 1, 2010)—The University of Wisconsin is going with its original out-of-state choice for their main food distributor despite a formal complaint from a competing in-state company questioning the university’s decision.

The contract for UW’s prime food vendor was awarded to the Iowa-based Martin Brothers Distributing Company, Inc. on June 30.

Sysco Food Services, based out of Baraboo, sent a formal complaint to UW Purchasing on Aug. 6 after they were passed up for the contract, according to a letter UW Purchasing sent to Sysco.

In the letter, UW Purchasing said they saw no appropriate reason to change their original decision to go with Martin Brothers.

Sysco said they could not comment on the situation until they have had a chance to review UW’s letter.

The contract, which includes the University Housing Dining and Services, the Wisconsin Union food services and the UW Athletic-food and beverage service, is worth around $6.25 million, according to UW Purchasing Procurement Specialist Dave Brinkmeier.

Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, said Sysco employs over 500 workers and is a very well-run business.

Although Sysco did put in a bid for the contract, Clark said, his primary concern is whether it was a fair bidding process.

Sysco’s bid to provide the university with food was lower in price than Martin Brothers’ bid and the company is much closer to UW.

However, Mike Hardiman, purchasing director for UW Food and Housing, said they would end up saving more money going with Martin Brothers because they offered the best rebates from food manufactures for larger orders.

“Martin Brothers had the best proposal. They keep a website that is constantly updated with manufacturers’ deals and rebates,” Hardiman said.

Hardiman said Martin Brothers keeps their full inventories listed online, so they will know ahead of time what they have and if they have to order from a secondary supplier, which will save them a lot of time.

He added the other companies, including Sysco, do not have their inventories online and they only know if they are out of stock of an item after they placed their order.

Another concern for Clark was having the university support state businesses, and unlike Martin Brothers Sysco is a Wisconsin company.

Hardiman, said UW does a tremendous amount of business within the state already and Martin Brothers has promised to use only Wisconsin milk and 95 percent of the cheese they provide will be from Wisconsin.

Hardiman added because Sysco is based in the state they had the opportunity to score higher on UW purchases evaluations, but they did not.

The debate over the award winner might not be over yet, as Clark said he was still going over UW’s letter to Sysco, but his next step will be to sit down and talk directly with the UW purchasing director.

Martin Brothers was unavailable for comment as of press time.


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