After a yearlong evaluation of dining options on campus and around the country, the University of Chicago announced new residential dining and academic and student-run café programs, offering more flexibility and variety.
“We listened to students, faculty and staff, and their responses guided the creation of this comprehensive plan,” said Kimberly Goff-Crews, Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students. “We believe it will enhance the dining experience for all members of our community.”
Here are few examples of the changes coming to the University’s dining program, beginning this fall:
- Faculty, staff, undergraduates, graduate and professional students will be able to use their University of Chicago identification cards to pay for meals in most campus dining locations, including all cafés and campus markets. Credit cards and cash also will be accepted at all locations.
- Hours will be extended in all of the dining venues, including during the summer.
- Residential dining commons will offer five separate plans, allowing students to choose unlimited residential dining, apartment meal plans or off-campus meal plans with as few as 10 meals per quarter.
- Several new dining providers, such as Red Mango and Jamba Juice, will be coming to campus.
Aramark, which previously worked with the University on residential dining services, will operate both the residential dining commons and the academic cafés under new contracts. Aramark was selected from among several major vendors; University officials said that Aramark offered many improvements and innovations, along with the affordability that many members of the campus community have highlighted as a priority.
“I am most excited — this is a totally new approach to dining,” said Gabriel Panek, a rising third-year in the College. Panek was one of 28 students, faculty and staff members who guided the bidding process. He estimated that he devoted 60 hours to meetings and site visits. “This isn’t the same old contract. Before the food was good — now, it’s getting much better.”
The four student-run cafés will continue to operate independently, under the leadership of their student managers, but will now have the option of saving money through joint purchasing with Aramark. Student managers also will be able to partner with Aramark for mandatory and voluntary training programs.
In dining commons and academic cafés, Aramark will provide a team of chefs accredited by the Culinary Institute of America. At least 25 percent of dining purchases across campus will be from minority- and women-owned businesses. The University also will partner with several local South Side restaurants to bring their culinary diversity to campus.
Current dining staff will be retained in the residential dining halls, Hutchinson Commons, C-Shop and the campus markets. As Aramark expands its union staff on campus, priority will be given to employees currently working in the academic cafés, and to residents of South Side neighborhoods.
“We are proud to support the University’s new Global Dining Initiative, which will transform the campus experience for students, faculty and staff,” said Chris Hackem, president of Aramark Higher Education. “This fresh, strategic approach aligns with the University’s diversity and sustainability objectives, and creates enhanced opportunities for students to leverage dining as a component for building community.”
The Global Dining Initiative began with a thorough evaluation of campus dining venues and programs. Almost 5,000 members of the community turned in surveys, and hundreds more took part in interviews or focus groups. Initiative leaders talked with representatives of every school and division, leaders from across campus and current food service providers.
The team also conducted site visits to a dozen college and university campuses, from Wheaton, Ill. to Baltimore.
“Dining is about much more than food,” said Karen Warren Coleman, Associate Vice President for Campus Life and Associate Dean of Students. “Providing the right food at the right places and times allows faculty, students and staff to eat together, continuing the conversations that begin in the classroom and elsewhere.”
Warren Coleman said that some of the changes would begin immediately, while others will take several months to implement. More information is available at http://dining.uchicago.edu.