GW, students give Aramark mixed reviews

Despite student complaints and recent union battles between Aramark and its employees, GW officials said Aramark’s service and food quality is “the best there is.”

The University’s contract with food service provider Aramark ends in June 2004, said Managing Director of Business Services Michael Peller. He said that although he could not comment on Aramark’s future past 2004, the University has been happy with the company’s performance.

Aramark has been at GW for more than six years, according to past Hatchet articles.

Dining facilities have seen a 12 to 14 percent increase in service this year, with about 96,000 to 97,000 students using the facilities each week, Peller said.

Peller said he attributes usage growth to “popularity of the food service.”

He said the University built a 92-seat J Street addition and doubled the number of managers to accommodate more students this year.

Aramark studies daily “market data” that reports the number of diners at each station and the most popular venues and times, said Aramark’s Resident District Manager Terry Merriett.

The market data helps Aramark decide where to place employees, he said. Aramark and the Student Association Dining Services Commission also have weekly meetings to discuss student concerns.

But some students said service remains slow and options are limited.

“It took me a ridiculously long time to get my order at Einstein Bagels, and there wasn’t even a long line,” senior Sean Altneu said. “It took over 15 minutes, and when they got my order wrong, they wouldn’t redo it.”

“The University has added new options for vegetarians, which is a start, but there are not nearly enough options for vegans on campus,” said senior Josh Balk, a vegan. “Provisions has even less vegan options than they did last year.”

Some other students said they enjoy eating at J Street, though some venues lack healthy choices.

” There’s a lot of variety and we have different choices, but none of them really provide a nutritious meal,” freshman David Rottblatt said.

Officials said they have addressed concerns from students about expanded menu options.

New dining venues include the Home Zone and Grille Works, featuring Philadelphia-style cheesesteaks. Officials added new vegetarian and kosher options to J Street and Provisions in response to student feedback, according to an Aug. 25 Hatchet article.

Merriett also said it is possible to change J Street venues if enough students and the University request the change.

Merriett said students should have realistic expectations about service time. He said some lines are slower because food is “made to order” at most venues.

Aramark is currently negotiating with its employees, who want higher wages, better healthcare and accident care benefits, more sick days and respect from management.

Merriett said students are “generally happy” and negotiations are going smoothly.

American University replaced food service provider Sodexho-Marriott with Bon Apetit last year after students complained about lack of options, officials said.

“We did surveys and focus groups and looked at information about student eating habits . and through that feedback Bon Apetit developed our food program,” said Hillary Dallas, director of retail and leasing operations at American.

Bon Apetit brought venues including Chick-fil-A, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Jamba Juice and Cocina Verde, a vegetarian station, to campus, said Terrell Walker, who heads Bon Apetit at American.

Students pay for food from these venues with Eagle Bucks, which are similar to GW Debit Dollars. American also has a “meals per week” option in a large cafeteria similar to Thurston Dining Hall.

“At GW there’s a trade-off,” Walker said. “You may be spending $1,600 and they give you (points). We can give you an all-you-can-eat program for the same amount.”

American sophomore Lauren Davies expressed dining concerns similar to those of GW students.

“I’m a vegetarian, and they have absolutely no variety to choose from,” Davies said. “They claim there is, but there isn’t.”

American junior Carly Hill said she likes the new line-up because “there are a lot more options,” but noted that prices have increased.

GW officials said they continue to work toward improving dining services, and comments can be directed to eat@gwu.edu.

-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.

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