A selection committee has chosen Creative Dining Services as Union’s new food service provider, according to Bryan Carrier, vice president for student life and dean of students.
“We’re excited about the company for several reasons: One, I think they really get who we are,” Carrier said. “When we talk about congruence of values, their purpose, there’s a lot of agreement there.”
The new partnership will be referred to as Union Dining Services. The transition begins immediately with Creative Dining interviewing current Aramark employees and preparing for a start date of June 1.
“I would assume that some of the Aramark employees will be hired by the new food service provider,” Carrier said. “I don’t know that all of them will or all of them should be, but they will all be given consideration.”
Creative Dining Services also serves Hope College, Calvin College, Trinity International University and Taylor University, Carrier said.
Union’s Executive Council is in the process of finalizing the contractual agreement, according to an email sent by Carrier May 5 to the student body. The email stated that prices and meal plans should be set by June 1.
Carrier said Creative Dining Services was chosen because they are a small company that emphasizes partnership. The new food service provider will also consider that a cafeteria goes beyond merely providing meals, Carrier said
“It needs to be a place where you establish relationships with other members of the community,” Carrier said. “They get that and know the way that happens is providing good food. We’re excited about their commitment to that.”
Carrier also said Creative Dining Services allocates a “significantly higher” portion of their budget to food than Aramark currently does at Union. This does not affect the price that students pay, Carrier said, but merely the percent of the budget that goes toward food rather than other expenses.
The Food Service Committee, which consisted of 14 members, looked at multiple companies and invited six vendors to bid on the contract, Carrier said. Before those companies sent representatives to campus, the committee researched practices, institutions with current contracts by these providers and contacted people at those institutions to ask about their experiences and level of satisfaction.
A group of students and staff also took a trip to the Chicago area to try several food service providers on area college campuses.
Holly Johnson, junior business administration major, Lacie Fink, junior accounting major, Karen Taylor, associate director of student leadership and engagement, Kayla McKinney, residence director of women’s quads, Susie Oliver, Union’s first lady, and Denise Bell, the mother of two Union students, were the members of the food service committee chosen to go on the trip.
”The purpose of our trip was to go and experience different food service providers on different campuses,” Taylor said. “We wanted to try the food without them knowing we were coming, and we were able to try a good variety of different food on different campuses.”
The group visited four college campuses, which helped give the committee insight to what food service can be like on other campuses, Taylor said.
“It just gave us a great scope of what food service could be like,” Taylor said. “We really want to provide our students with a great eating experience. We want to be able to provide good food and a good community experience.”
Students expressed excitement for new food, but concern for Aramark workers.
“I feel good about getting new food, I think it will be good for campus. I hope we can keep the workers though,” said Anna White, sophomore elementary education major. “They’re great, even though the food isn’t always great.”
Jon Mark Hetrick, junior math and philosophy double major, said that while he wasn’t surprised by the change in providers, he will miss an Aramark tradition he has enjoyed for three years: Wrap Wednesday.
“I’m not sure what the fate of Wrap Wednesday will be, and that kind of unsettles me,” he said.
Jake Wynn and Emily Littleton contributed to this report