Shepherd University students can look forward to having new dining options on campus when they arrive for the fall semester. Shepherd has entered into a 10-year contract with Chartwells Higher Education to operate five campus dining facilities and concessions at athletic events, as well as provide campuswide catering and food for conferences.
“I think Chartwells will be a great partner,” said Dr. Liz Sechler, Shepherd’s director of residence life. “They know food, are innovative and ready to collaborate, and are responsive to students’ and the university’s needs.”
Chartwells provides contract foodservice management, hospitality, and guest service at 290 colleges and universities across the U.S. The company focuses on providing nutritious cuisine designed to satisfy the unique appetites, lifestyles, and dietary needs of every guest dining on campus, with a goal of bringing people together to promote the high-intensity relationships that will prepare students for the future.
Michael Lannon, Chartwells vice president of operations, said the company is pleased to be a part of the Shepherd community and is excited about the opportunities the partnership will bring. Chartwells has developed a comprehensive dining program that will be implemented over the next 18 months and will include changes to the Dining Hall, Ram’s Den, Fireside Bistro, Riverside Café and Market, and Wellness Café.
“We look forward to connecting with the student body to work together to create a unique and exciting dining experience across campus,” Lannon said.
Sechler said Chartwells plans to invest $1.9 million in dining facility improvements over the 10-year contract period and will provide annual revenues to Shepherd in excess of $500,000. Renovation of the facilities began this summer and will continue through next summer.
Changes in the Dining Hall will move production of food from the kitchen to the dining room, with more made-to-order stations where students can customize their meals. Starting in fall 2019, the Dining Hall will have a G8 Allergen-Friendly Station that will offer menus without the eight most common allergens—peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, shellfish, fish, and soy.
“Both the storage and preparation of food will take place at the G8 station to avoid cross contamination,” said Mark Tarkanick, Chartwells regional marketing director.
Tarkanick said every meal at each facility will offer vegetarian and vegan options, and students will be encouraged to voice their preferences.
“We have a program, Don’t be Shy, Self Identify, where guests with food allergies or specific dietary concerns are encouraged to speak with a manager for individualized assistance,” Tarkanick said. “Our menus are online for students to view. If there’s a major allergen, students can talk to a manager about having a meal prepared for them.”
This coming year, the Ram’s Den will focus primarily on burgers, pizza, and made-to-order subs. The Fireside Bistro will convert to a We Proudly Brew Starbucks. Equipment will be added to the Wellness Café so the fresh and healthy-focused menu can be expanded. The Riverside Market and Café will have expanded hours and will offer breakfast, grab-and-go selections, and pop-up menus featuring street-style food.
“We’ll start off with Tu Taco,” Lannon said. “Think of a street taco cantina. The concept brings the street indoors with a simple soft taco that pays homage to Tex-Mex and Cali influences. The students will then be able to vote on what’s next. There will be six different concepts for them to vote on.”
Chartwells will offer its Teaching Kitchen program, where students can explore food and gain culinary and nutrition literacy designed to positively impact their food choices and experiences.
“It’s going to start with basic cooking skills and continue with unique monthly themes that include vegetarian awareness, Chef’s Thanksgiving, learning the basics, and Make MyPlate, Your Plate,” Tarkanick said. “It’s part of the life skills that we’ll offer students outside of the classroom.”
“When you’re doing the first couple of teaching kitchens, you find out how little students know about producing food for themselves,” Lannon added. “They have developed unique and different tastes because they eat out, and they don’t eat at just McDonald’s anymore. They develop a palate that’s a little different.”
Sechler said the new dining service will give students a greater range of food options and will help improve their overall experience at Shepherd.
“Students will be able to more easily find healthier options, vegetarian selections, vegan meals, and options for those with allergy sensitivities,” Sechler said. “There’s a place on campus for everyone. Community can come from sitting around a table eating together and talking, and there are choices for students on the go between classes to grab something nutritious and tasty.”
Students will be able to access information at Chartwells’ website, https://www.dineoncampus.com/shepherd, where they will be able to provide feedback and look at menus and nutritional information. Access to information will also be available in the dining facilities, through an app, and through @Shepherddining on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.