Dining Hall Open Forums: Chartwells
Chartwells, a New England-based independent subsidiary of Compass Group, presented its plan for the University’s Request for Proposals for the new dining contract during an open forum on Thursday in Sherman Function Hall, which emphasized the integration of technology into dining services.
Chartwells’ focus is in three areas: its partnership with the University, transparency and “passion for program,” according to its PowerPoint presentation.
Its menus are based on guidelines from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to maximize nutritional value in the food. These menus will be built to reduce red meat consumption and be more “plant-forward,” and will use products from local farmers. Chartwells will also craft seasonal menus to feature in-season produce, which is more sustainable and higher-quality than importing produce year-round, Division Chef Sarah Bodner said.
Additionally, Fueling Your Unique Lifestyle Program, Chartwells’ “functional food program,” will ensure that food is healthy and nutritious so students will be able to focus on their studies. The program will encourage creative usage of healthy foods in dishes and “simple ingredients, done really, really well.”
In Sherman Dining Hall, Chartwells will add a teaching kitchen, which will feature occasional visits by celebrity chefs, as well as an expansion of kosher options to “match and be complementary” to those on the non-kosher side. This would include a kosher grill station, deli, salad bar and global station. The teaching kitchen would be mobile, and could be used in the kosher section.
“We really wanted to make certain that the kosher program had its strength and had its validity versus it kind of just being the paper plate program that it is right now,” Chartwells’ Division President Mindy Segal said. “When we’re designing kosher menus, we’re not designing them as kosher menus. They’re designed as great food that happens to be kosher.”
While the layout of Sherman will remain relatively unchanged, Usdan will undergo extensive renovations. Louis’ Deli would move to the space that currently houses Currito’s and SubConnect, and would serve as a “designated kosher outpost” with its own seating area, Chartwells’ Vice President of Growth and Retention Tom Lapp said.
Lower Usdan will utilize the vendor’s FlexiKitchen concept, which will allow for constant changes in food offerings. Chartwells proposed two options for Lower Usdan: the current all-you-can-eat layout and a community food hall. The vendor would ask the community for input on the offerings in the community food hall format, which could include Paper Lantern, its Asian food and bubble tea restaurant, or a Panda Express.
The Hoot Market would undergo a “face-lift” to become the “C-Store of the future,” Segal said. In addition to more offerings similar to those found at organic food stores like Trader Joe’s, the Hoot Market would feature hot food offerings and a late-night street taco stand.
The Shapiro Student Center would get a fully-licensed Starbucks, unlike the outpost that is currently in Farber Library. Segal said the addition of a Starbucks in the SCC would provide “a really great opportunity to have a late-night gathering space,” as well as a central spot for students to get coffee throughout the day. In place of the library’s Starbucks, Chartwells would open another coffee shop with Dean’s Beans, Atomic Coffee or another coffee company requested by students. It would also feature an extensive bakery.
To increase sustainability, Chartwells will institute its “Carbon Foodprint” program, which will look at the carbon impact of food used by dining services, to help Brandeis meet its goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 7%. The vendor would also partner with the Office of Sustainability to evaluate the equipment in the kitchen and subsequently implement strategies to reduce water and energy usage.
The WasteNot program, with the goal of reducing and making students more aware of food waste, will use technology to gather and showcase data about food waste to the community for a low cost. Another goal is the reduction of single-use plastic.
Chartwells plans to integrate new technology into its food services, including by the use of autonomous robots to deliver food, an online ordering program to reduce wait times in line and the integration of more 24/7 options for food, such as a salad-making robot machine and a cashierless market. The dining halls would feature screens with nutritional and caloric information, and a “social media wall” so students could showcase their “Instagrammable moments,” Lapp said.
Student feedback would utilize more technology, including through the Happy or Not screens in the dining halls, which would enable students to select an emoji to reflect their satisfaction with their meals. Chartwells would also hold focus groups each spring to gauge students’ feedback in areas such as meal plans.
The technology would also be used for better allergy safety practices. The dining halls would feature kiosks to allow students to “navigate their dietary needs by choosing allergens when they get to the dining halls (e.g if one student is [Gluten Free], they can filter out gluten when they want to find allergen information of the food options provided that day),” Senate Dining Committee Chair Nancy Zhai ’22 said in an interview with the Justice, adding that that aspect “really stood out” to her.
Despite the increased technology use, Chartwells said that this would not result in a loss of jobs for workers, but would provide more options for students. In fact, in terms of worker retention, Chartwells plans to keep all the current employees and have a party to welcome them, Chartwells’ CEO Lisa McEuen said.
To engage with the Waltham community, Chartwells will partner with FoodWorks to bring local restaurants to campus for pop-up stations and possibly longer-term set-ups in the dining halls. Under this program, students can ask for certain Waltham restaurants to set up stations, and Chartwells will work to bring them in.
Jordan Resh ’20, a member of Brandeis’ chapter of Uprooted and Rising, asked about the possibility of meal plan price increases under Chartwells, citing a sharp rise in food prices at Barnard University when it contracted with the company. McEuen replied that the price increase was a “fundamental decision of the client,” and Lapp added that Chartwells needed to make substantial changes to the dining program. Additionally, buying a meal plan “should be something that is a value to you off the bat,” Segal said.
Resh also asked about concerns by dining workers at several other institutions contracted with Compass Group alleging “racist, disrespectful and condescending treatment” by management, who she said did nothing to address the “heinous and aggressive behavior.”
Chartwells’ Vice President of Operations Tracy Treadwell replied that the company has strong relationships with 19 other branches of UNITE HERE Local #26, and Bodner added that any allegations of similar behavior were “not acceptable” to the company.
Another student from Uprooted and Rising asked about Compass Group’s investments in military operations, to which McEuen replied that the company does not have any military holdings. She added, “Sometimes things get out in the media that aren’t all the way accurate.”
Uprooted and Rising did not respond to the Justice’s request for comment.