Officials launch search for new campus dining provider

Media Credit: Julia Abriola | Staff Photographer

Officials have said they will use the change in dining providers to adjust the existing dining plan, including switching Pelham Commons to an all-you-can-eat dining hall.

About one month after GW lost its food provider, the search for a new campus dining service is underway.

Officials formed a committee in January to discuss bids from other meal providers, after Restaurant Associates, the University’s dining partner, withdrew from its contract with GW in December after only a little more than a year. A top dining official said students will aid in the selection and introduction of the new company, which is expected to be announced by early summer.

Two students will serve as representatives on the committee along with about 12 officials who work in the Division of Operations, students involved in the committee said.

Alicia Knight, the senior associate vice president of operations, said since GW issued a request for proposals from dining partners at the end of last year, “several companies have been engaged in the process.” But she declined to say which companies submitted proposals, claiming the process is still in a “confidential” stage.

She said a new vendor is expected to be announced later this spring or early summer.

Officials have said they will use the change in dining providers to adjust the existing dining plan, which has faced persistent affordability concerns, including switching Pelham Commons to an all-you-can-eat dining hall rather than the a la carte system currently in place.

After Restaurant Associates ended its contract, officials said in a release they are looking to hire separate dining providers to oversee catering services and dining spots on the Mount Vernon Campus. The dining committee will discuss proposals from companies to operate the two dining venues on the Vern – Pelham Commons and a smaller venue in Ames Hall – as well as summer catering services on the Vern, according to the release.

At least one other company will provide event catering in the Marvin Center and on the Vern, but Knight said the structure of the catering program is still in the works. She said officials expect to have several caterers to “provide menu flexibility.”

“The introduction of the all you-care-to-eat program and broadening the catering options for Mount Vernon Campus and Marvin Center will provide both individual students and student organizations with many more options for pursuing affordable dining options while maintaining the flexibility of food offerings,” she said in an email.

When Restaurant Associates took over as campus dining provider in 2016, officials overhauled the previous dining system, closing the main dining hall on the Foggy Bottom Campus and switching to an “open” system in which students could use all dining dollars at restaurants and stores near campus.

Representatives from Restaurant Associates declined to comment for this story. The company pulled out of its contract less than two years into its deal with the University. It’s unclear how long the contract was expected to last because the company and officials at GW have declined to discuss details of the deal.

Restaurant Associates will remain the campus dining service until the end of the academic year. The company now serves students on the Vern’s two dining venues and caters for events in the Marvin Center.

Throughout their year-long service, Restaurant Associates sparked complaints from students about not being able to accommodate multicultural dishes for events in the Marvin Center.

Two students – representatives from the Student Association and Residence Hall Association – will serve on the committee to give input on company proposals and voice student concerns about dining affordability.

Logan Malik, the SA director of sustainability, said he is advocating a provider that will give healthy and affordable dining options for students on the Vern. He said SA President Peak Sen Chua selected him to serve on the committee because of his work pressing for cheaper options in dining and printing costs.

He said the selection of a new meal provider will come down to specifics of the contract, like whether the contractor will charge using a swipe system or by weight. The timeline to select a dining provider is not as important as ensuring that administrators accept a bid that will withstand the duration of the contract, Malik added.

“I will continue to advocate for affordability and healthy options regardless of what we discuss at the meeting,” he said.

RHA President Rachel Metz said she is seeking a bid that demonstrates high customer service, “quality” food and meals that appeal to a range of student tastes, which would resolve the concerns of students living on the Vern about limited access to dining venues and meal options.

“We’re basically looking to take the best of Restaurant Associates – people really enjoyed the staff members, they thought customer service was high – and then match that with more food-specific feedback we’ve heard,” she said.

SA President Peak Sen Chua said he nominated Malik to the committee because he has expressed a desire for healthy, affordable meals as well as various options to accommodate for multicultural student organizations.

“It’s an undeniable fact that the University, any university, is driven by students, so if you want to hold true to that principle you have to include that in your decision-making,” he said. “If you want to have a dining plan that is used by students, you need to involve them.”

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