Sodexho to run revamped J Street

Big changes are again coming to the University’s largest campus dining venue, J Street.

The University announced this week that Aramark, which in 2002 signed a 10-year contract with the University, will no longer operate food venues in the Marvin Center. Food-service provider Sodexho will be taking over food operations June 1.

With the management change at J Street will come major changes to the layout of the Marvin Center: Quizno’s will replace Subway, and Chick Fil-A will replace Burrito Express.

A new venue, J Street Caf?, will feature an all-you-can-eat dining option with a pre-paid number of meals. It will be constructed in some of the space occupied by Starbucks and Columbian Square in the Marvin Center.

Another new venue, a full-service restaurant serving beer and wine to students 21 and over, will be added to the fifth floor of the Marvin Center. The restaurant will be equipped with entertainment stations in seating booths that will offer satellite Direct TV and XM Satellite radio.

Over the past three months, GW had been in discussions with Aramark and two other food service providers about how to make changes to J Street to accommodate student preferences.

“At the end of the day, the Sodexho proposal was head and shoulders above the other two,” said director of Auxiliary and Institutional Services Nancy Haaga.

“We gave all the groups base information of what we were looking for, and the Sodexho proposal spoke directly to student and parent feedback,” she said.

Sodexho is a national food service provider that serves more than 100 colleges and universities around the nation.

The District Market supermarket in the Marvin Center’s lower level is set to move to the main level and will occupy the space where Jamba Juice is located. The University will reacquire the ground floor space, which may be available for student organization use. All J Street renovations are set to be completed by the fall.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president of Student and Academic Support Services, said many of the changes to J Street were a direct result of student feedback, including possibly using the basement of the Marvin Center for student use.

Chernak said Aramark “missed the mark in terms of dining” and said he was disappointed with the variation of choices.

“Students are bored with the same types of retail selection at J Street,” Chernak said. “(Aramark) had done the research when they made the latest revisions, and they thought their research was solid, but it turned out to be faulty.”

“Aramark was not able to penetrate their market share,” Chernak said of the profit shortfalls by the national food service provider.

Sodexho spokesperson Bonnie Gordon said, “Our research on campus told us that while students like the a la carte style choices in retail restaurants, they missed having a campus restaurant where they could sit and have a relaxing meal with their friends and have numerous meal choices available to them.” She said J Street Caf? will fill that void.

Sodexho is required by D.C. law to hire Aramark employees, said John Boardman, the executive secretary of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Local 25, which represents Aramark employees. Sodexho has an option to keep the contract with Aramark employees and transfer it to Sodexho, or it can choose to draft a new contract, which could result in a dispute over benefits.

Gordon said Sodexho will be reviewing the employees’ contract over the next couple of weeks and will be determining what type of contract will be offered to employees.

This will be the second major reconstruction J Street has undergone in two years. Over the 2004 summer, Aramark gutted the food court and got rid of most venues in the Marvin Center’s basement and first floor.

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