Store Operations Board to Proceed With Negotiations to Have Fresh Choice as an On-Campus Vendor

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The ASUC Store Operations Board voted last week to move forward with a shortened lease for the newest on-campus vendor, buffet-style restaurant Fresh Choice, despite serious concerns from one board member.

Fresh Choice has been negotiating its move to the space formerly occupied by Naia Lounge in Lower Sproul Plaza since executives approached the board last summer and is now projected to open in either July or August. Board Chair Yishi Zuo said the process has been drawn out due to bureaucratic problems and negotiations over the lease and price of rent.

Although Zuo said he and the majority of the board feel that the new lease terms are worth the reduction in rent due to its decreased risk, Philippe Marchand, internal coordinator for the Graduate Assembly and one of seven students on the board, said in an e-mail he feels differently.

In October 2010, the board approved the terms of a longer lease with Fresh Choice that charged more than the currently proposed rent of about $33,000, according to Marchand. However, the shortened lease the board approved at its March 7 meeting reduced the amount of base rent Fresh Choice would need to pay upfront, which Zuo said was necessary to get the company on board.

"I understand that the Board wanted to reduce the term of the lease and had to come with some concessions, however the concessions proposed by the Auxiliary were too much," Marchand said in the e-mail. "I think when you have a restaurant chain that pays its space at a lower rate than non-profit, student-run organizations, it raises a red flag."

According to Marchand, the contract from October would generate significantly more revenue - $10,000 to $20,000. He cited in the e-mail concerns that the amount the board will charge Fresh Choice is roughly equivalent to what it currently charges other non-profit organizations, such as CALPIRG.

Marchand said he also had concerns about the process through which the board approves vendors for UC Berkeley. Usually - as in the case of Subway and Saigon Eats - there is a request for proposal where various companies are invited to make competitive bids. But Fresh Choice negotiations were initiated by the ASUC Auxiliary without a request for proposal process. According to Marchand, such processes lead to better deals for UC Berkeley by generating competition among potential vendors.

Though the majority of the board voted to bypass the proposal process in order to save time, Marchand said in the e-mail he believes this advantage was not demonstrated in the Fresh Choice case.

"It has taken a long time to approve and finalize negotiations - much longer than I expected," Zuo said. "Then again, everything at Cal takes a long time."

Zuo said the healthy food options, familiar name and affordable pricing offered by Fresh Choice would be appealing to students.

"Students - the ones we have talked to - seem mostly receptive to the idea of Fresh Choice," Zuo said. "Fresh Choice has brand recognition, which is great and will definitely be affordable."

In May 2009, the board forgave The Daily Californian a portion of its rent for the office it leases. As part of the agreement, a nonpolitical student member of the board, currently Zuo, sits on The Daily Californian's Board of Operations, which has no control over the paper's editorial content.


Contact Neetu Puranikmath at [email protected]

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