By Maria Monteros
For almost half a century, Trevecca students have only known one food provider. But last month, a new catering company took over to redefine university dining.
Over the summer, the president’s cabinet voted on Chartwells Dining Services to provide food for Trevecca students over Hallmark Management Service, Inc. and 45-year partner Pioneer College Caterers.
Chartwells, a company under food service giant Compass USA, was chosen based on finances, quality and potential employment for student workers, said Trevecca President Dan Boone. Chartwells currently serves 280 campuses nationwide.
“I think it’s really important for us to have a food service provider that meets the modern college student’s needs,” said Jessica Dykes, associate vice president and dean of student development. “[Chartwells] have a different approach to dining on college campuses than our previous provider, whom we had a great partnership with, but they just weren’t able to keep up, I believe, with what our campus really needed moving forward.”
The university has been considering new caterers since fall last year after repeated complaints about the quality and lack of food options for vegetarians, students with allergies and commuters. Officials intended to finalize decisions before May graduation, but after hiring a consultant, they opted to review contract agreements causing the staff to adjust immediately to both the students and campus at the same time, Boone said.
Chartwells began reconstruction on Aug. 1— just a few weeks before classes started. It took only 12 days for the company to replace carpets, repaint and introduce a new menu.
“I’ll admit, this is a transition that I wish could have happened in May,” Boone said. “We would rather go with the right decision taking a little longer than make the wrong decision and have to turn around and do this all over again a year or two from now.”
Trevecca’s recent Form 990 listed Pioneer’s contract at $1.2 million. The TrevEchoes reached out to Mariano Monzu, Trevecca’s chief financial officer, to obtain the price of Chartwells’ contract but did not receive a response.
Boone says the company’s operations cost more than Pioneer’s.
“[Chartwells’] expense, it was a little ahead of where Pioneer’s had been,” said Boone. “We actually budgeted extra money this year to just basically get them in and let them give us a taste of what it is that they can do.”
The price of meal plans increased this year to $2,225 from $2,100 per semester last year for a full plan and $580 from $549 for commuter students, according to Trevecca’s “My Plan to Pay Worksheet.” The employee meal plan also hiked to $5 from $3 per meal.
“A lot of that does have to do with our fresh food. Produce and meats is one of the highest cost items out there. And with that, we have a lot more offerings,” said Matthew Highley, director of dining services. “Fortunately and unfortunately, we’re going into 2020 and the dollar menus have gone away.”
With a swipe of their IDs, a full plan this year could afford students four meals from either the cafeteria, The Hub, The Cube or 1901, a coffee shop on campus. Students say they were able to swipe their IDs as many times as they wanted last year.
Students can send feedback on the tablet located at the cafeteria, but some students prefer to share their comments to Marina Yousef, student body president, and Erica Wigart, sophomore class president, verbally.
“[Students] haven’t been sugarcoating it, they’ve been honest, they’ve been forward,” Yousef said.
Students often complained about long lines throughout every section of the cafeteria, said Wigart. A station in the cafeteria called “the demo line” has the longest wait because most of “the meat” was there, she says.
The staff distributes food items themselves during certain times of the day. Some students say they don’t receive the meal portions the want. Highley says it’s meant to foster interaction with students and staff.
Chartwells plans to use their first few months on campus to monitor the flow of traffic in the cafeteria.
“It’s important for students to realize that you’ve got to give them a little bit of a grace time,” said Wigart, who was a member of the food committee. “They’re still trying to understand the volumes that come in the caf at what times, what food people like.”
However, students have also noticed improvements in the quality and overall sanitation of the dining halls, said Yousef. Both Yousef and Wigart agree that Chartwells has offered more variety in food options— a common complaint from students in previous years.
Commuters can now use their meal plans during dinner times as opposed to only breakfast and lunch last year, says Yenin Echeverria, commuter council president. She says the dinner option motivates commuters to “spend all day on campus” and “have the college experience.”
Yousef, a commuter herself, enrolled on a meal plan for the first time this year.
“Students should know that student government is working on this right now,” said Yousef, adding that students can reach out to class representatives for feedback.
Trevecca’s initial plan was to better coordinate multiple eating venues, increase seating capacity and follow a “food court” concept for the cafeteria, says Boone. Architects from both Compass USA and Trevecca are working together to finalize plans for updates within the coming months.