The university has chosen Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services to replace Aramark as the provider of all on-campus dining services.
Three other companies, including Aramark, submitted bids for a contract with the university. Kevin Campbell, vice president for enrollment management and student engagement, said one company dropped out of the process after determining it would not be a good fit with the university. Aramark has been the dining services provider for more than 20 years, Campbell said. New York-based Chartwells won the bid and will begin providing services May 28.
Campbell said Chartwells will cost about the same as Aramark but will provide a better student experience, which help the university financially in the future. Retail foods, such as Starbucks and Chick-fil-A, will cost less with Chartwells. Campbell said this could encourage more juniors and seniors to eat on campus.
Chartwells will keep the hourly employees now employed by Aramark but will re-interview the dining services management team.
“The price is going to stay the same for students,” Campbell said. “What we’re really focused on is increasing the variety, the options and the quality.”
Campbell said he and a few other staff members ate at some Chartwells-managed cafeterias at other universities, and he was impressed with the food quality.
“There is very little food in a Chartwells account that is ever frozen,” Campbell said. “Most of it is made fresh everyday.”
Chartwells will provide a station called “G8” for students with food allergies. The “8” represents the eight most common food allergens, Campbell said.
Addy Arnold, a sophomore child and family studies major from Allen, said the Bean needs the addition of the gluten-free station. She said she does not eat gluten because she has Crohn’s disease. Before she came to campus, she said she was told she would have gluten-free options.
“Whenever I had tours and would visit campus, they would have really good gluten-free food,” Arnold said. “But then once I was an actual student, those options weren’t available.”
During her first semester, she worked with Scott Self, director of Alpha Scholars, to get food she could eat. Dining services cooked her a dinner around 2 p.m. each day, so the food sat in the oven for several hours before she ate it. By the end of the semester, she said they allowed her to get off the meal plan.
“Even as I was fighting to get off the meal plan, I knew that I just wanted it to be different for other students in the future,” Arnold said.
The new company will also have a “Students’ Choice” retail option in the food court, which will change each semester or year with input from a student dining committee. The first option for the 2018-19 academic year will be a street taco bar called “Tu Taco.” Campbell said the location within the food court has not yet been decided. Students created a baked potato bar through Chartwells at the University of Texas at Dallas, he said.
Chartwells will also provide a “teaching kitchen” in the Bean. Students will be able to sign up to attend special classes in the kitchen with a Chartwells chef. This will be accessible to all students, even those without a meal plan.
“There’re 30 different, pre-built teaching sessions,” Campbell said. “He’ll teach them how to cook, how to go to the grocery store to buy certain meals, even how to use kitchen knives.”