Ahead of the expiration of Georgetown’s contract with its auxiliary services provider Aramark in 2017, the company has increased its efforts to improve the quality of on-campus dining and engage with students to receive feedback.
Since the beginning of this semester, Aramark has increased its offerings at both O’Donovan Hall and the Grab ’n’ Go locations after receiving student feedback from surveys and monthly meetings with the Georgetown University Student Association Dining Committee.
New additions include a wider range of dining options, such as whole grain foods, smoked salmon, eggs Benedict and chocolate fondue in Leo’s, as well as new salads, sandwiches and snack boxes in Grab ’n’ Go.
According to Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services Joelle Wiese, Aramark implemented the changes to keep up with evolving student tastes.
“One of the trends that we’ve seen is that students want more of a global palette and bolder flavors,” Wiese said. “We’re trying to tap into that, whether it’s in Grab ’n Go or in Leo’s overall.”
Aramark Marketing Manager Adam Solloway also said the company relies on the student community to suggest additions and improvements to dining.
“Our dining committee meetings have been a key factor in student engagement and the feedback has been valuable in guiding our menu planning to increase variety,” Solloway wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Meetings are instructive and we collaborate together to make enhancements.”
Besides the committee, other student working groups formed at the end of last year have held meetings with chefs and representatives from Aramark’s culinary team to help construct the current Leo’s menu.
GUSA Secretary for Auxiliary Services Nicolette Moore (SFS ’17) said that the committee has been instrumental in Leo’s improvements.
“It’s been a really good forum,” Moore said. “It’s making the administrators and the people who work in Leo’s more accountable. When they hear it directly from the students, it means more.”
The beginning of this academic year was also marked by a poor health inspection record for Leo’s given by the United Statse Department of Health. In early September, Leo’s received two critical violations and three noncritical violations on its health inspection report, which included observations of mice droppings in the bake shop storage cage and employees handling cooked broccoli with their bare hands.
GUSA Dining Committee Member Joshua Shinbrot (COL ’16) said the health inspections reflect poorly on Aramark’s management.
“I think it’s pathetic that the health inspection results have been so poor the past several times that they’ve been inspected,” Shinbrot said. “[Aramark] should know how to operate it. They should know how to deal with those contingencies by now.”
Wiese said that Aramark has begun to make improvements in response to the report.
Shinbrot also said that the timing of Aramark’s improvements is questionable given their prior negligence to student input.
“They’ve been nodding their head for years, and all of a sudden, they’re going out to bid early and you see major changes in a matter of weeks,” Shinbrot said. “My big concern is that these improvements are going to be short-lived. … They don’t want to lose that contract.”
Moore also said that the impending end of the contract, which began in 2007, could play into Aramark’s decision to make improvements to the dining services.
“It’s possible that maybe they’re trying to be really responsive just because they know that their contract is ending soon,” Moore said.
However, Wiese said the upcoming end of Aramark’s contract has no relation to the recent improvements, which she said are the result of discussions between student groups and Aramark.
“We’re always tweaking it [and] always fine-tuning it,” Wiese said. “Aramark, as well as all of us, really just want to provide the best that we can for the students. … It’s really just trying to meet the needs of what students want versus anything relative to a contract.”
In addition, Wiese said it is too early in the bidding process to identify prospective vendors or determine the possible renewal of Aramark’s contract with the university.
Despite her skepticism of the changes at Leo’s, Moore said that Aramark has generally become more receptive to student feedback this year.
“I think that they genuinely want to make it better,” Moore said. “Whether that’s something that they would continue to do if their contract was renewed, I don’t know.”
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