Losses force Aramark cuts

Aramark officials considered closing Big Burger and Provisions Market Too, among other significant schedule and staffing changes, earlier this semester as the on-campus food provider copes with a 30 percent decrease in revenue.

Faced with the loss in business, Aramark, which operates most on-campus food venues, also proposed changes that included the reduction in some venues’ hours of operation, according to a document obtained last week by The Hatchet. Cutbacks have also prompted the dismissal of 35 workers, Aramark officials said.

While declining to acknowledge authorship of the document, Aramark officials said they contemplated making the changes that were described in the four-page proposal, including the closure of several venues.

“Those were some of the things we proposed … We had many different proposals,” said Kim Davis, Aramark resident district manager.

But University officials, who could not be reached for comment, refused last month in meetings with Aramark officials to close Big Burger and Provisions Market Too, Davis said.

The proposal to close the Marvin Center venues was based on sales data, said Davis, who could not release specific figures in an interview Friday.

With the adoption of Colonial Cash this semester, Aramark-operated venues are facing increased competition from off-campus restaurants and convenience stores, University officials have said. Previously, students were required to use meal points at on-campus venues and had a separate off-campus account.

There are currently no plans to change the Colonial Cash system aside from adding additional partners next semester, said Christine Fischer, assistant director of contract services, adding that overall meal point sales have increased this semester.

“Colonial Cash is not an option – it is part of GW’s revisioning of Dining Services to provide students increased choice, flexibility and convenience,” she said.

Fischer added that GW and Aramark are “working to survey the needs, desires and tastes of customers” and “being responsive to (how) customer needs drive sales.”

Last month, Hotel and Restaurant Employees Local 25, the union that represents Aramark-employed workers, laid off 22 workers in response to a decision by Aramark to cut some venues’ hours, said John Boardman, the union’s executive secretary.

Boardman said 21 of the 22 non-management workers dismissed from their jobs were hired this fall, noting that seniority was the main factor in deciding whether or not a worker was laid off. The workers made between $9 and $11 per hour and received medical and other benefits after being employed for three months.

Davis said an additional 13 managers lost their jobs. He would not say how much money Aramark saved by dismissing employees.

Boardman said discussions are underway that would allow six workers to return by converting six current full-time positions into 12 part-time ones.

“There are some workers in the bargaining unit that think 12 positions – part-time though they may be – are better than six positions,” he said.

He added that the staffing changes would cause “very significant reductions” to students because some venues have curtailed their hours.

Davis would not discuss the reduction in hours but said the changes have already been implemented.

“Anything that was proposed has already happened,” he said.

He added that the decision to cut hours was based on traffic data that showed when sales were very slow.

Among the venues that have seen a reduction in hours are the Hall on Virginia Avenue Diner, Big Burger and the Home Zone, said junior Ryan Geist, director of the Student Association Dining Services Commission.

While noting that Big Burger is closed for lunch and the HOVA Diner is open only for dinner, Geist said he could not discuss hour changes at other venues because they are “very volatile.”

“All of them are sort of up in the air right now,” he said. “They’re playing with them.”

“I’m sure they’ll be more hour changes,” he added.

Geist criticized Aramark officials for not making students aware of the changes and said officials should ask GW to put up posters advertising the reductions.

“I’m not necessarily happy with the way they’ve gone about changing the hours, in that it hasn’t been very clear to students,” he said.

Geist said University officials approached him and SA President Kris Hart about the changes last month, noting, they “showed us … that they were losing money.”

While it wouldn’t be “fair” to ask Aramark to operate venues during times when they are suffering losses, Geist said officials have to be “amenable to students’ needs” and make as few changes as possible.

Hart echoed Geist’s comments, saying, “I understand Aramark is a business, but students can’t be hurt by their lost revenue.”

Hart said he did not support closing dining venues such as Big Burger because Aramark officials refused to show him sales reports.

-Julie Gordon contributed to this report.

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