With its contract coming to an end in May, Aramark is implementing changes to its dining options such as increased weekend brunch options and new food stations including sushi, as well as incorporating students’ input based on a survey administered in the fall.
Auxiliary Business Services is currently in negotiations with potential suppliers, including Aramark, Sodexo and Bon Appetit, for a new five-year contract to run O’Donovan Hall. Any potential changes would be made in two years.
The negotiation process between the university and potential vendors brings potential for a wide range of changes to campus dining, including meal plans, Leo’s design, Hoya Court vendors and flex dollars.
Incoming GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) said Aramark, the current vendor, is not currently satisfactory.
“Problem number one: Leo’s quality and variety are not on par with what students want. This new vendor would have to present a good plan to fix our one dining hall,” Khan said. “Beyond that, our retail options need to improve. Our students here are brand conscious and prefer national names. We need to emphasize getting a vendor that can bring us the best options there.”
Khan also said worker’s rights are important to consider in any upcoming contract.
GUSA’s Dining Subcommittee and the administration are currently working together on both immediate and longer-term changes.
Senate Dining Subcommittee Chair and Freshman South District Senator Saad Bashir (COL ’19) said the Einstein’s Bagels location in Regents will be removed and relocated to Reiss, and new meal plan options will be introduced, including cheaper and smaller block plans and the ability for students to purchase flex dollars, which are tax free.
According to Bashir, the university has stated its intent to respond to the concerns voiced by the student community, specifically around meal plans. Bashir said that Georgetown’s Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Business Services Joelle Wiese told him in a meeting that the university is considering reducing block plans to 115, 95, and 75 meals, in addition to lowering meal plan prices.
“Prices are being reduced but, unfortunately, the administration is not willing to reinstitute the weekly 10 meal plan we used to have two years ago,” Bashir said.
Wiese said the changes reflect an effort by auxiliary services to cater more to the student body’s desires, using information gathered from Aramark surveys and a dining committee, which meets every week.
“Aramark conducts a survey each semester in the fall, so we take a look at that just to get a sense of what students are looking for,” Wiese said. “We try to do things to provide something a little different and fun and social for students.”
Aramark Higher Education Marketing Manager Adam Solloway said that incorporating student opinion into decision making is a priority for Aramark.
“Every semester we look at the survey results and implement offerings based on that feedback,” Solloway wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We also have an online tool for our customers to provide instant feedback for all of our campus operations. Student preferences are continually evolving, and, in this year alone, we’ve made significant additions to satisfy those requests.”
Khan said she appreciates Aramark’s initiatives to engage students but thinks there is still more to be done.
“From my freshman year to now, I think Aramark has improved in their efforts to work with students. This year I think they’re trying and there’s something to be said about that,” Khan said. “I just think the contract we’re under right now isn’t working, which isn’t to say Aramark isn’t working, but that we as students are not getting the value that we are paying for.”
GUSA held a town hall in January where stakeholders and student representatives shared their thoughts on Georgetown’s dining situation. The town hall included a presentation by consulting firm Envision Strategies to present the result of the student survey.
Bashir said the town hall was an important step in getting students engaged in the ‘request for proposal’ process.
“Some of the main complaints out of the town hall were about Grab and Go, particularly that it isn’t worth $14 just to get a bagel at Einstein’s or a PB&J at Leo’s. There were a couple health concerns that were raised as well,” Bashir said. “What they believe is important about Leo’s is it’s an environment that fosters community and is a way for freshmen, especially, to make friends.”
Khan said she is confident that, with student support, these concerns will translate into concrete changes.
“Going and eating at the same place every day gets redundant. Especially for freshmen in this transition phase, being able to have some flexibility is important,” Khan said. “So we’re looking for a vendor with more of a declining debit balance as opposed to a meal swipe structure. With a declining debit balance, what you get is what you pay for.”
Khan said it is essential students are continuously involved as changes are made.
“With the vendors, when we’re looking at who to select, the student engagement piece is really important, because I think dining is something that effects everyone everyday,” Khan said.
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