A look at foodservice changes made by Chartwells

Photo by Keila MacPherson.
Photo by Keila MacPherson.

After sixteen years of service from Aramark, Trent University handed its food providing crown over to Chartwells for the 2014–15 year under a new five year contract.

As a first year student I did not have the chance to experience Aramark, but I do know that many changes were made. Students talk, and there have been many varying opinions, with some students preferring the food under Aramark and some under Chartwells. But not everyone is going to be happy, right, so what’s the real deal?

One praise Chartwells has gotten this year is the increase in fresh and local foods, which has been a goal of Chartwells, according to Otonabee College don Mitchell Sallis. There are also more vegetarian options in the campus cafeterias this year than in previous years with Aramark, as some students have told me. Many students believe the food quality has increased substantially from last year’s food service provider, mainly from the addition of more franchised brands, such as new Tim Horton’s and Subway outlets in Otonabee College and a Thai Express outlet in Champlain College.

On the other side, some students preferred the cafeterias under the jurisdiction of Aramark. “There was better food, more variety, and more food for less or the same price, it was just better,” said one second year student. Some students also preferred the Aramark branded sandwich station in Otonabee College to Subway, as well as the Pita Pit and Chinese outlet to the Thai Express in Champlain College. Some students also believe that there are now a lot more unhealthy choices.

A few years ago, a plan called the Raw Deal was adopted by the Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) and students were asked what they would like to see changed about food on campus. Based on the answers given, twelve recommendations for improvements were made.

Some of the goals of the Raw Deal document have been met, however several still have yet to be fulfilled. One of the recommendations that has not been met is allowing students to see the nutritional values for cafeteria menu items online. On the other hand, menus are available online, which is a positive change that was not available before.

Also part of the Raw Deal was a monthly rotating menu in each of the college cafeterias to provide more variety and change, this also has not yet been executed. It also stated that it was important for cafeterias to be open while classes are still running, however only the Otonabee College cafeteria is open until 10pm when classes finish for the night.

Working more closely with students was also in the Raw Deal document, which Chartwells has been doing through the university’s new Food Service Committee. Another positive change is that there is more money on meal plans for residence students this year. Also, if they have any money left over at the end of the year, students can use it the following school year.

While there may be better things about the food, there has been some discrepancy about the service. Aramark seemed more organized last year, remarked some students. However, Chartwells will hopefully improve as they settle in. Some students also noted that the operation of the new services is painfully slow at times, and that drives people away from purchasing food on campus.

One of the biggest frustrations students have with Chartwells is the closing of the Otonabee College cafeteria on weekends. This has become a hassle for students of Trent University’s most populated residence. “Students now have to get geared up for the winter cold just to go grab breakfast in the morning. The Gzowski College cafeteria becomes extremely busy and the staff are not always prepared for all the extra students,” said one Otonabee College resident. The cafeteria also opens later on the weekend, which is unaccommodating to early risers and those who have to go to work early in the morning.

Many students have also been vocal about bringing back the late night residence express service, especially during the exam period.

“There was a delivery service, and a late night service for Otonabee College. This was where the OC cafeteria was open Monday-Fridays until 1am if you had a hankering for food. They would also deliver the food to your college, if you didn’t want to come down. There were some limitations on what you could order, but there was still a ton of variety,” said second year student Brianna Hayward.

Every viewpoint under the sun has been heard about Trent’s transition from Aramark to Chartwells foodservice. And while each has their own opinion not everyone can be pleased. But if improvements continue to be made, Chartwells and Trent University could have an excellent future ahead of them.