GW, Aramark sign 10-year contract

The dining service provider Aramark inked a new deal with the University last month that will allow it to operate campus venues for the next 10 years.

Both Aramark and GW officials declined to disclose the terms of the new contract, which replaces a five-year deal that expired in late June. But Louis Katz, the University’s executive vice president and treasurer, said the dining service provider will be paying GW to operate venues in the Marvin Center, which it did under its previous contract.

Katz said the deal was reached after Aramark officials presented plans to renovate the dining areas on the Marvin Center’s ground level and first floor. Next semester, J Street will feature a Wendy’s and restaurants serving Asian and Mexican food, and the ground level will house an upscale grocery store (see story below).

University officials looked at four to five different dining service providers before deciding to continue with Aramark for another 10 years. Katz said one contender for the contract, which he would not identify, did not appeal to officials because of the lack of brand name establishments the company would house in J Street.

Although GW recently reached a new deal with Aramark, it dealt a significant blow to the company’s profit margins last year by introducing Colonial Cash. The dining plan, which allows students to use their points at dozens of off-campus venues, was implemented to give students more eating options and force Aramark to compete with outside venues.

The new contract carries no restrictions on the use of Colonial Cash, which is being accepted by several additional establishments this summer, Katz said. “We believe in giving students choice,” he added.

Aramark officials hope the Marvin Center renovations will give them a leg up on outside competitors and bring back some of the business they lost last year. The company incurred a 30 percent profit loss last year due to the introduction of Colonial Cash.

“We were pleased to have the opportunity to work closely with the University to bring additional service to campus now that the new contract is in place,” Amelia Powell, Aramark’s marketing project director, wrote in an e-mail last month.

Last year’s sharp decline in revenue caused Aramark to lay off several workers. Powell said the new contract would not prompt the firing of any more workers and added that the deal could benefit Aramark employees because venues might stay open later. With the exception of Starbucks, most Aramark-operated establishments closed at 7 or 8 p.m. last year.

“The hours of operation have not yet been finalized with the University, but we expect to offer additional late night dining options in the fall based on student feedback received during the survey process,” Powell said.

Katz said the new dining venues’ hours will be affected by student demand. “If students are not using it, hours will be reduced,” he said.

-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.

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