Though many WCU students use the University’s on-campus meal plan or eat at the many dining locations on campus, few know much information about the company that manages our dining services. Aramark has been West Chester University’s food services provider for the past 19 years, and is closing in on the end of their renewed contract. At the end of their contract, the University can either switch to a new service or renew Aramark’s contract for one or two more years.
The Student Government Association hosted an open Aramark forum November 12 in Sykes Theatre from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Students were encouraged to write questions down regarding Aramark’s services, which would then be addressed through a moderator. Aramark was represented by four West Chester staff members: John Birmingham, District Executive Chef, Matt Seamon, Director of Operations, Dan Burns, Resident District Manager, and Tom Purce, Assistant Vice-President of Student Affairs at WCU. The moderators of the forum were SGA senators Anthony DiJiacomo and Chad Evans, and the main topic up for discussion was Aramark’s contract and possible improvements that could be made upon a contract renewal.
Aramark’s last contract began five years ago as an auxiliary enterprise. During the course of those five years, $1.75 million in WCU dining improvements has been paid for by the dining auxiliary, including the Breaks food truck, part of Starbucks, and the new pizza oven to be installed at Rams Head.
“We’re looking to do something new each semester.while trying to align Aramark’s mission and West Chester University’s goals,” Burns stated.
Perce, stating West Chester’s goal to be “effective and efficient, but also good [quality],” believes we should renew the contract for one year.
Students with copies of the acting contract noticed some discrepancies between what they read and what they experienced on campus. Birmingham explained that many “amendments” have been made to the four-year-old document, and new dining options and establishments have taken the place of what “should be.” One student pointed out that the contract requires a carry-out option in Lawrence Hall. Though Lawrence used to equip the inset room in Side Cafe as a carry out station, they no longer do so. Filling this hole in the contract is Larry’s Market, with its new meal-exchange program, and the Diner, which offers the option of taking your meals with you out the door.
Aramark’s contract also raised the question of how our dining services ensure quality, low-priced food.
Seamon informed the assembly that there is an annual competitor research period. Other vendors and their insurance policies are reviewed, along with prices per portion of food. Due to this system, prices have been adjusted accordingly so WCU students are offered good products at an affordable prices.
Ultimately, students wanted to know why Aramark was a more superior service than a University-run West Chester Food Service. Purce first shared that, though it seems a complex system, it has been proven to work and benefit the University throughout the span of its contracts. The only Pennsylvania state school to have its own food service (Millersville) has much higher prices when compared to WCU. Without Aramark, we would not own the ability to bring franchise stores (such as Chik-fil-A and Einstein’s Bagels) onto campus.
Also without an “outside source,” the university would have to contribute much more financially. Employees would have to be compensated for their full time hours and their benefits. Burns explained WCU’s employee recognition program (THRIVE) and shared that Aramark is less expensive and serves as a better employee advocate than a union.
All of the Aramark representatives shared the idea that the best way to improve food services on campus is through feedback from university students. Aramark does so through student surveys (handed out at various locations and online), student-manager communication regarding problems at the actual locations, and through the Dining Advisory Board. The Dining Advisory Board serves as a student board of directors regarding dining services on campus, and though the student body is mostly represented through Residence Hall Association members, all students are welcomed and encouraged to attend the meetings. The next meeting is Thursday, November 20, in the Traditions side of Lawrence Dining Hall at 3:15p.m. If you are unsure if you can attend, please direct any comments or concerns (positive or negative) to an RHA member, or through the “Contact Us” option at West Chester’s Campus Dish website – http://www.campusdish.com/en-US/CSE/WestChester/ContactUs/.
Tara Tanzos is a second-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at TT649875@wcupa.edu.