Chartwells rolling out new restaurants, prices
Expect to see two new dining locations and increased meal plan prices this fall.
In March 2017, the University terminated a long-standing food services contract with Aramark in hopes of revamping UH Dining and boosting student satisfaction. This fall will mark the beginning of Chartwells Higher Education’s second year at the helm of the University’s food scene, and with it, comes another wave of changes.
“You get what you pay for. Aramark was cheaper, and it also sucked,” said Student Government Association President Cameron Barrett. “Chartwells is more expensive, (but) the difference in quality is higher than the difference in price.”
In its pilot year, the new dining program brought a 24/7 operating structure to the dining halls and introduced numerous other upgrades to the accessibility and quality of on-campus dining, but improvements came with increased meal plan prices.
Chartwells is looking to add two new restaurants in the fall: Mondo Subs, a sandwich concept in Student Center South, and a sushi bar located in the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center.
“Dining is a large component of any university, especially for those who live on campus,” said District Marketing Manager Abel Valencia. “We address things like access to food, excitement in the dining halls. Through different programs, we try to make sure students are engaged so that they have opportunities to learn about their food.”
They made visual improvements to the Moody Towers Dining Commons and rebranded the C-store through The Market branch, Valencia said.
Despite improvements brought by Chartwells, sociology junior Kevin Terry said meal plans have become an issue among students.
“Meal plans are too expensive, and that is the main problem I have with eating on campus,” Terry said. “With prices that high, it makes it not worth it.”
The cheapest mandatory meal plan for residential students in 2018-2019, the 24/5 bronze plan, comes with $150 in Cougar Cash but does not allow access to dining halls on weekends.
At $1,940 per semester, this plan is a $140 increase from the previous base plan for residents — which provided unlimited swipes 24/7 and no Cougar Cash — and removes weekend access to the dining halls.
Still, psychology senior Mariah Smith said she likes the dining services under Chartwells more than Aramark.
“I feel like there are better food options, and the dining halls are very clean and are managed better,” Smith said. “Every experience I’ve had at the dining hall in the past couple of months has been great.”
In an attempt to implement more options, Barrett wrote a bill in the summer, which passed, that will encourage dining services to provide more kosher and halal options.
“The thought process was, if you open a place with more than two eateries, one of those needs to offer kosher and halal, and they agreed to that,” Barrett said. “They also agreed to contract with different food trucks, because it is a lot easier to get a truck to drive to campus than to build a building.”
Valencia said the goal is to make dining accessible and to accommodate all students on campus.
After working with Auxiliary Services, SGA approved an August motion to limit meal plan price growth to 3 percent per year.
Barrett said the overall concern for meal plans is reasonable but offset by the increased dining quality since Chartwells’ took over. Students who experienced both Aramark and Chartwells would say they prefer the latter, he said.
“The students rightfully complain about the prices.” Barrett said. “It’s very expensive, but at the same time, more students complain about how crappy Aramark was than the prices on the meal plans now.