Marriott Pow Wow pull-out still uncertain

By Paul Wagner

Whether Roy Rogers cafeteria will still be in operation when NIU students return from spring break is still unknown.

The Marriott Corporation, owner of Roy Rogers, has threatened to leave the Pow Wow room in Holmes Student Center Friday and might not be returning.

Interim vice president of business and operations, James Harder, said he has not received confirmation from Marriott as to whether or not they will cease operations on Friday. “March the sixth hasn’t yet come,” and Marriott might elect to continue service, he said.

NIU President John LaTourette said NIU is trying to reach a settlement with Marriott. He said Harder has written to Marriott outlining a reasonable settlement. “Hopefully, their (Marriott’s) response … will be one that indicates a serious effort on their part to address this problem,” he said.

arder said he has discussed the ramifications of Marriott’s intention to violate the contract. “There has been no formal agreement,” he said, but there is an ongoing dialogue between Marriott and NIU. “We believe the terms of the contract must be considered in any termination,” he said.

A settlement that does not violate the terms of the contract could come to $700,000 to $800,000. This is because the contract calls for $440,000 over five years and the return of the Pow Wow to its original condition.

Marriott had signed a five-year contract with NIU last year to provide food service in the Pow Wow room. The contract “involved a guarantee of $88,000 at the minimum per year to the university or 11 percent of gross revenue whichever was larger,” LaTourette said. This amounts to at least $440,000 guaranteed to NIU, he said.

The contract also called for “the Marriott people to restore the facility to its prior condition if during the period of the contract, they decide to vacate,” LaTourette said. The cost to restore the Pow Wow is estimated to be “a couple hundred thousand dollars,” he said.

LaTourette said NIU has lost business in the food service operation even though Blackhawk cafeteria business has increased. “There is already damage in a sense that we’ve lost part of our market.”

If Marriott does leave, the Pow Wow probably will still have some form of food service after break. Robert Fredrickson, University Food Services director, said NIU’s food services are planning to take over if Marriot ceases operations.

Fredrickson said the service provided if Marriott leaves would be more limited than what used to be provided, but he was hopeful it would be more expanded than the Roy Rogers operation. “We can’t offer a whole lot more because the facilities are somewhat limited,” he said.

“I would hope that we don’t have to take legal action” against Marriott, LaTourette said. “I am hoping the Marriott people will, if they feel so strongly about terminating their contract, that they will offer some reasonable terms of settlement. I have no way of judging whether that’s going to be the case or not,” he said.