The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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The Verdict on Chartwells

Campus dining has taken a great deal of heat over the years, whether the food has been called unappetizing, undercooked, or just boring.

At the beginning of this semester, an opportunity for change arrived in the form of Chartwells Dining Services. The eager new food service company hit the ground running, announcing big plans for improvement.

For starters, Montgoris Dining Hall underwent a reorganization of food stations, with all the sections becoming self-serve. This idea was aimed at giving students more control over the food they ate.

Now, students can take as much food from each section as they want, whether they want more or less than the carefully measured portions that were doled out under Sodexho.

In addition, other sections in Montgoris were moved to increase the amount of space within the cafeteria and to alleviate some of the crowding issues.

The dessert, toaster, and cereal stations were moved outside to the dining area, which made it much easier to get to them without having to fight through the other lines.

While some students complained that the crowds only worsened after the transition to Chartwells, this could be attributed instead to the students simply not being used to the new look of the dining hall or to the self-serve format.

Now that a semester has gone by, students are spending less time trying to figure out where everything is and lines are moving much more smoothly.

Not only is the service better, but the food quality itself has also seen a vast improvement. Meals are featuring more variety than was offered by Sodexho, with new recipes appearing almost every week.

Gone are the days of having chicken five times a week with one day of fish and another one of beef just to keep things interesting.

But when the main dish seems unappealing, or you’ve made the mistake of showing up between meals, there are other options, including a daily pasta section, an increased variety of grill items, and a bagel bar.

Montgoris is not the only place on campus to see improvements from Chartwells, either. Marillac Dining Hall and the Hungry Johnnie, the campus convenience store, have had their floor plans rearranged to increase space and organize their displays.

In Marillac, as well as the Sullivan Café and the library café, Au Bon Pain soups have been added to the menu.

Above all the present improvements, however, the greatest change brought by Chartwells is the potential for further change. Under Sodexho, the food service seemed to be stuck in a monotonous pattern without any hope for progress.

Now, Chartwells has promised to fix all that.

The most important tool that Chartwells has been using is the comment cards that have been placed in each of the dining institutions on campus.

Students are able to post a complaint and actually see it answered, as members of the Chartwells managerial staff review each card and repost them with responses.

If student suggestions are actually taken into consideration and used to make St. John’s dining services even better than they have already become this semester, eating on campus might just become a regular practice for students
rather than a last resort.

Montgoris cravings do not happen often among dorm students at St. John’s. But the beginning of this year’s spring semester brought with it a renewed interest in visiting the Resident Village dining hall.

Sodexho, the school’s previous food service company, had been replaced by Chartwells, which sparked curiosity as to whether or not the food would be better. At first, it seemed that it was.

The inside of Montgoris had been revamped, the changes mostly consisting of renaming each of the stations (which had become self-serve) and moving the cereal dispensers.

Not only was the appearance different, but so was the food. It was exciting to find that they had a variety of delectable options to choose from, such as pasta alfredo, roasted chicken, and bacon cheeseburgers.

The only minor complaint that was heard involved the sandwich station, where students were now responsible for making their own wraps, which would turn out looking rather sloppy.

Montgoris was not the only cafeteria that underwent changes; Marillac received a paintjob and renamed its pizza restaurant, and the Jazzman Café, located in St. Augustine Hall, became Pura Vida.

With what seemed like such a strong effort to change things for the better, one would think that there would no longer be hesitation to venture into the University’s various cafeterias.

However, a week after experiencing these new changes, it seemed like food service was back to its old ways.

Attempting to eat dinner in one of these cafeterias, especially Montgoris, had become almost impossible. Lines for food had nearly doubled, and crowds were so thick, one would be lucky to make it from one end of the cafeteria to the other in a reasonable time, let alone find a table.

In Montgoris, food choices had become repetitive; students can only consume pasta alfredo so many times without becoming utterly repulsed by it.

If one were brave enough to venture away from what had been deemed “safe food” during the Sodexho era, such as wraps, salads and grilled cheese sandwiches, they would more than likely be spending their evening clutching their stomachs and popping Tums like candy.

Service in Marillac cafeteria has not sped up much, either. Taco Bell and Burger King, two fast food restaurants, are not very fast at all. When students are crunched for time in between classes, the chances of grabbing a quick and filling meal are slim to none.

On the other hand, while lines move rather quickly in Pura Vida, it is almost worth waiting in a long line at Dunkin Donuts for a cup of coffee; the coffee many students normally count on to make it through their day is so weak, it tastes as though it is nothing more than strangely flavored hot water.

While it is one thing for the food to not taste great, it is another thing altogether for the food to be dangerous to eat. On more than one occasion, students have found their chicken to be undercooked or raw in the center. If consumed, one could become very sick. Instances like these make resident students hesitant to eat in the dining hall.

It might be assumed that the change from Sodexho to Chartwells was a move made by the University to improve the food they serve – but perhaps there was a different reason. If it is possible to pay less for food service, it seems as though the University will jump at the chance.

Some students who have been at St. John’s throughout the various changes in food service claim that there never seems to be a difference. Perhaps the desperation for better tasting meals is fooling us into believing the University is taking a step forward.

Inconsistency in tasty meals proves the lack of progress with food service, which can only mean one thing: keep the medicine cabinet stocked with Tums.

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