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Food partnership brings new approach to dining

The partnership between the University and Chartwells to create University Dining Services is considered by some to be one of the definitive examples of outsourcing on campus.

It marked one of the first outsourcing relationships at the University, beginning in 2009.

“I don’t teach and professors don’t cook hamburgers,” said Mike Paulus, director of University dining services. “We take care of dining and allow the organization to focus on its core mission.”

Paulus is employed by Chartwells, a contract management service which provides dining services to organizations or companies that have a need.

While the University’s dining services was successful before bringing in Chartwells, the change took place because of financial priorities, said Nancy Joseph, operations director for University Dining Services. Joseph has been an employee at the University since 1971.

“The quality of the product we served prior to Chartwells was not the issue,” Joseph said. “The issue was having the resources to renovate or do new construction.”

Partnering with a private company brought more to the University than just newer buildings and renovations.

“We have different options now,” Joseph said. “I think, with the culinarians and the chefs we have in place, our food service has evolved.”

One reason Chartwells was chosen to partner with the University, out of four companies who bid for the job, was because of how much the company offered, Joseph said.

Chartwells modernized the University dining facilities and then focused on developing cooks, Paulus said.

“It enabled us to create a scratch cooking concept on campus,” he said.

The improvement of food quality and the concept of “cooking from scratch” could help students develop habits of eating healthy, quality food for life, Paulus said.

“The behavior patterns you have as a high school and college student really drive you for the rest of your life,” Paulus said. “Healthy lifestyle, healthy eating, we hope to bring that impact for the future.”

As far as what the students think of Chartwells and the food it provides, Paulus said he has heard everything from students— “good, bad and indifferent.”

Nicole Chase, senior and general food service worker with Chartwells, has been at the University since fall of 2007, with experience dining at the University before and after Chartwells. She said she liked dining services better before Chartwells came in.

“There’s definitely a very noticeable difference between dining services pre-Chartwells and post-Chartwells,” Chase said. “The quality of food was better, the selection of the different types of food was better.”

Chase said for people who haven’t experienced University dining without Chartwells, they “may think Chartwells is the best BG can do, which may give them a negative impression of BG.”

Paulus directs students to voice their opinions about dining on its website,, but he realizes he cannot please every student.

“The challenge I have is food is very subjective,” he said.

A Dining Advisory Board on campus made up of students, faculty and staff meets monthly to give input to Dining Services.

“We discuss dining challenges, opportunities, new programs,” Paulus said.

Chartwells also tries to partner with education for students, offering culinary classes and cooking demonstrations, Paulus said.

“We like what we do and our society is becoming very attuned to culinary technique, to dietary requirements and we just want to share what we know,” Paulus said. “Food’s a passion, it shouldn’t be a requirement, it should be fun.”

In the past four years, Chartwells has not only had an impact on the food at the University, but also on campus sustainability, Paulus said.

“Sustainability is one of the pieces we truly believe in,” Paulus said.

Chartwells works to reduce food waste, promote recycling and buy food from local companies, among other projects, said Nick Hennessy, University sustainability coordinator.

“They’ve definitely been proactive on this topic,” Hennessy said. “They so many times are the ones taking the lead on it or … they’re right in there making suggestions.”

Though Hennessy said dining services was receptive to sustainable changes before it became Chartwells, he said he didn’t really notice when the transition occurred.

“I view [dining services] as one of my go-to partners for all sustainability projects,” Hennessy said. “[Paulus] has very much an open door policy.”

The two newest dining centers on campus, Carillon Place and The Oaks, were designed by Chartwells to be sustainable buildings, Hennessy said.

“People a lot of times think of dining as just a place where they go to eat,” Hennessy said. “It’s more than that on campus.”

Since Chartwells arrived at the University, it has given campus more opportunities, Joseph said.

“I think that’s just opportunity from the perspective of just the service that we can provide in terms of the food, the quality of the food, the different brands,” Joseph said. “[Chartwells] covers all the bases.”

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