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New campus food provider receives mixed reviews after first year

By Emily Macphail, April 6 2016 —

Last spring, the University of Calgary transitioned from its previous food service provider, Chartwells, to Aramark, an international company that supplies food for educational institutions, healthcare centres and prisons. Aramark operates the residence Dining Centre, the university’s on-campus catering option and 19 other retail food outlets on campus.

Aramark rebranded many of the university’s food retail outlets during their first year of operation. They made further changes to the Dining Centre’s main dining hall — now called “The Landing” — by adding tables with electrical outlets and a new menu.

Upper-year science student Sarah Van said that while the quality of the food has improved, she has some other issues with Aramark.

“There isn’t as much variety as last year. Last year they had the Sunday buffets, buffets on holidays. This year that doesn’t happen,” Van said.

She said that while the staff are kind, her biggest concern is the high prices. According to Van, students often choose not to order whole meals and often opt to get the cheaper sides on their own.

“This year I am eating there less but don’t have as much meal plan money left over.”

Meal plans range from $2,228 sampler plan, to the $3,947 standard plan and are mandatory for first- and second-year students living in Rundle, Kananaskis and Yamnuska. 

A lack of flexibility over when to eat is another of Van’s concerns.

“If you don’t get food at the regular lunch or dinner hours you are out of luck and have to eat at the grill where the options are not the healthiest — fries and chicken fingers,” Van said.

Students often complained about Chartwells during its 10-year contract with the university between 2005–15. But overall, Van said she would pick Chartwells over Aramark.

Associate director of food and conference services Jill Blackie said the transition to Aramark has gone smoothly.

“We currently have two groups that formally meet to share feedback and ideas,” Blackie said. “The student group is called the Food Engagement Committee [and meets] monthly during the academic year. The second group, ‘Behind the Scenes’, meets three times per year and is focused on catering.”

Aramark accepts feedback in person or via their online ‘Your Voice Counts’ feedback form.

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