Aramark will remain the university’s dining contractor for the next 10 years, with plans to expand meal exchange options and convert the first floor of O’Donovan Hall into a food court this summer.
The contract, announced by Chief Operating Officer Christopher Augostini in a campuswide email Tuesday, concludes a yearlong bid process for the dining contract between Aramark and Sodexo, the two finalists.
Under Aramark’s plan, the top floor of Leo’s will be renovated into a food court with retail providers, including District Donuts, as well as vegan and gluten-free food options integrated into all menus.
The top floor will have the same amount of seating compared to the current layout but will focus on giving students a meal exchange option with increased portability.
The Fresh Food Company will manage the bottom floor of Leo’s, which will retain the traditional all-you-can-eat layout with an emphasis on healthy options. The number of guest swipes will increase from two to five.
Chief Business Officer for University Services Debbie Morey said while concrete plans have not been established, dining options will see significant changes.
“There [are] a lot of moving parts, and these are very aggressive timelines. This is not unusual for food because you often have food companies come in and flip places overnight,” Morey said. “We are basically gutting Leo’s and changing the way it looks.”
Hoya Court will also see renovations as part of the plan, according to Morey.
“The idea behind Hoya Court is it doesn’t matter how many locations — the idea isn’t working right now. It is an awkward setting for people to eat so are we reimagining Hoya Court along with the bookstore renovation that is going on this summer,” Morey said.
Students on campus this summer will not be able to access Leo’s while the renovations take place, and will go to a temporary location for dining instead.
Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services Joelle Wiese said the new contract would improve the quality of Leo’s dining options.
In the year leading up to the dining proposals, Georgetown University Student Association conducted an extensive awareness campaign to encourage students to be involved in the process.
Both finalists presented proposed future dining offerings and meal plan structures at open houses in September for members of the community. In addition, the university held a food forum Oct. 6, the night before the university chose a vendor, to enable students to provide input.
GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) said the new exchange options and improved food quality will address significant complaints for students.
“Flexibility, variety and quality were really the big parts that were most needed,” Khan said. “The current all-you-can-eat model of students only being able to eat at one location as their home base, and then essentially having to now [use meal] exchange, was a big problem, and was something frustrating students.”
Wiese said Aramark’s contract will follow the university’s just employment policy, which states that Georgetown will attempt to avoid job losses when subcontractors are changed.
The decision is the result of yearlong process led by the Office of Auxiliary Business Services’ Request for Proposal Committee, a 30-person working group consisting of six students, including GUSA members.
According to Morey, the new dining plan will not impose new longterm costs on the university. The contract is expected to pay for itself in the form of increased student traffic and students purchasing meal plans.
“Georgetown’s dining program is a self-sustaining program and we do not subsidize food on our campus,” Morey said. “There [are] so many more options that you will start to see the value in it, and we will start to see an increase in those sales. That is how we will pay for the amortization and the investment on this.”
GUSA Deputy Chief of Staff Garrett Williams (COL ’18), who was on the RFP committee, said the committee visited other nearby college campuses, including the University of Delaware and George Mason University, where Sodexo and Aramark operated respective dining plans in place that were similar to their proposals.
The new dining plans follow an expansion of student dining options over the summer, including the addition of meal exchange options at Hoya Court locations and Cosi after 3 p.m. and mobile ordering app Tapingo. The university also added takeaway options at Leo’s and the ability to purchase additional tax-free Flex Dollars throughout the year.
At a reception held in Leo’s for all 250 employees of Georgetown Dining, Morey said the new contract aims to create the best-in-class dining experience for students.
“It was important for us to find a partner that would take us to a new level of service and dining on campus,” Morey said. “Our vision is for Georgetown to provide a model program that other universities can achieve. We are all embarking on this transformative journey together.”
According to Marisa Colon (COL ’19), improvements to campus dining are positive.
“Leo’s does need to change, but I think it’s more about the quality of the food. I would be happy if they committed to fresher produce rather than having vendors,” Colon said. “We’re not even asking that much, we’re just asking for better quality food rather than a whole elaborate, fancy dining hall.”
Matt Treacy (COL ’19) said he is cautious about the planned improvements to the dining hall and meal plans at Georgetown.
“Looking at the posters in Leo’s, I have a really hard time believing that they’re going to have that done by next fall. That’s not going to happen,” Treacy said. “Also, if the second level is all made-to-order food, that’s going to take forever. That just doesn’t make sense. It’s all a little too good to be true, like a little too utopian.”
Some students, like Stephanie Huang (NHS ’18), do not understand the need for the slated changes to Leo’s.
“I’m actually one of the few people who enjoys Leo’s. I wish they had more variety sometimes, but it’s healthy food,” Huang said. “They have nutritious options, so I don’t really see a need for the new project. I guess we’ll have to wait and see though.”
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