University announces new on-campus dining provider after months-long bidding process

Chartwells will replace previous vendor Aramark

University announces new on-campus dining provider after months-long bidding process

The One Card & Dining Services office in the Mary Graydon Center. 

Chartwells has been chosen as the new dining provider for the University in place of previous vendor Aramark, Chief Financial Officer Doug Kudravetz and Vice President of Campus Life Fanta Aw announced in an email to the AU community on Wednesday, June 19.

The change comes after a series of controversies with Aramark and a months-long Request For Proposal process at the University, in which vendors including Sodexo, Bon Appétit, Harvest Table and Metz Culinary bid on the dining contract. Major improvements that students and administrators wanted a new dining contractor to provide were longer hours of operation, higher food quality, a more diverse range of options (including vegan, vegetarian, halal and kosher meals) and better hygiene and freshness of food. 

Chartwells’ contract with the University has an initial term of five years, said Charles Smith, the director of Auxiliary Services. He declined to comment on the exact nature of the agreement, but said that food quality and customer service were the highest priorities for improvement. 

“Chartwells offered a customized approach to the dining needs of our community,” Smith said in an email to The Eagle. “Their culinary presentation was cutting-edge, embracing the benefits that Airlie Farms can bring to the dining experience.”

Airlie Farms is a local plot of land that provides the University with an allowance of vegetables for use on campus. 

On its website, Chartwells promotes a commitment to sustainability and a 98 percent retention rate. It works with 280 locations across the U.S., and the company, a subsidiary of major food service provider Compass Group, has pledged itself since 2018 to sourcing Fair Trade products. This involves purchasing meat and dairy products that are free from antibiotics and growth hormones and buying local produce to reduce waste and the corporation’s carbon footprint.

The food vendor has provided Florida International University with dining services since 2018, according to the school’s student newspaper. The university appreciated the company’s local food sourcing, its agreement to fund $1.5 million to first generation scholarships and the prospective introduction to favorite chain restaurants like Panera Bread Co. and Chipotle, according to the paper.

Chartwells was previously involved in a lawsuit with D.C. Public Schools for allegedly overcharging the city and mismanaging school meal programs, according to a 2015 article from the Washington Post. The company agreed to pay a $19 million settlement after acknowledging its foul play with DCPS.

The University announced a new Request for Proposal back in April, an action which began a bidding process that opened up the potential for a new dining service to enter AU’s dining plan. While the administration aimed to treat Aramark fairly in this new bidding process, it was unlikely the company would be re-selected as the University’s dining partner.

The fate of former Aramark employees on campus remains unclear. The last time the University changed providers, employees kept their jobs, but many lost their pensions and were forced to work past normal retirement age. 

“Employees are covered by the Displaced Worker Protection Law in D.C., which requires a new contactor to retain all eligible employees for 90 days to evaluate them,” Smith said. “Following the transition period, each employee will be evaluated based on their performance...Employees’ pensions are handled by the Union and are a part of the collective bargaining agreement.”

It is also unclear if smaller vendors, such as Subway, Eagle’s Nest P.O.D. Market, and Einstein Bros. Bagels, will remain or be replaced, as these locations were contracted through Aramark. 

“Over the next school year, Chartwells will work with AU Dining and students to identify more places for change,” Smith said. “All eating venues are under review.”

Chartwells did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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