At the end of the fall semester, Sodexho, the company that had been providing dining services for St John’s, tried to renegotiate their contract. However, the University decided to try a different food provider rather than negotiate a new contract and a higher cost for the company that has had questionable service for the past few years.
The new company is called Chartwells, which already serves a number of other universities in the Northeast, such as Stony Brook, New School University, and Sacred Heart. Hopefully, they can step in and provide quality food service in the place of Sodexho. This is a great opportunity for both this new company and the St. John’s community because an entirely new provider leaves open the possibility of making dining services here even better than they once were.
Chartwells could just replace Sodexho and offer practically the same service. They could also take steps to prevent many of the problems that the old company was faced with, like multiple health inspection failures, which would definitely be a marked improvement.
Yet, a third option remains. This new company could listen to the students and use their suggestions to create a quality food service that satisfies all the needs of the student body. From what this new company has been saying, that may be exactly what Chartwells will do.
Since becoming St. John’s new food service provider, Chartwells has already made a few changes. The café in the library has been renamed and offers health food. There are also plans to make the Marillac cafeteria more convenient for students, such as being able to pick up a cup of coffee, pay for it, and leave quickly. In Montgoris, the new provider plans to tear down the wall to the kitchen, allowing students to have a better idea of where their food is coming from.
These ideas are certainly a good start, though there are plenty of other improvements that could be made. For starters, Sodexho was never really able to satisfy the need for late night dining.
Chartwells could change the hours of Montgoris, particularly on weekends, to better suit the schedules of college students. Rather than have a single block of time on the weekends for students to eat at Montgoris, there could be two separate dining periods. There could be a brunch from the morning to early afternoon and dinner from five or six p.m. until ten o’clock or even later. Students tend to wake up early and stay up late on weekends, so it only makes sense that dining hours reflect that.
Similar hours could be set up for the C-store on weekends, since the whole purpose of a campus convenience store is to be able to get food when normal dining is not available. Yet, the Hungry Johnny currently closes early on weekends. Another idea for the Montgoris or Marillac dining halls could be a few late night hours during the week for students who are up late studying.
Another suggestion is about the food itself. In Montgoris, Sodexho had a habit of serving very similar meals every week. There was very little variety, except in the names of the dishes. Chartwells could bring a marked improvement by offering some new dishes every once in a while.
Of course, the most important issue is quality. While restaurant quality food may be out of the question for a college dining hall, just ensuring that meals are not over or undercooked would go a long way toward leaving more students feeling satisfied after eating there. In addition, maintaining a clean and inviting atmosphere in each of the University’s dining establishments would make students happier to spend time at them.
With the beginning of the Spring semester, students will be finding more than just new classes and professors here on campus. A new and different dining service provider could mean an improvement in food services, a decline, or no change at all. However, with Chartwells already taking the initiative to make improvements and listen to what the students want, there is hope that new and different is for the best.