Aramark serving up new food options, renovated facilities

Hollan Holm

Dining Services is now serving up $3.5 million in new food options for Western students this fall. Administrators say they hope the renovations will shorten wait lines and make campus dining more convenient.

Also, chains like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut are being traded for more Aramark food options, and the open hours of the food courts in Garrett Center and Downing University Center have changed.

Dining service marketing manager Tracy Morris said Pizza Hut in Garrett was replaced by Aramark pizzeria to offer students better quality pizza at lower prices. Home Zones – which serves comfort foods like meatloaf and fried chicken – was also added to the food court.

“They’ll get a little more variety with that station than they used to,” Morris said.

She said Aramark will not replace the remaining fast food chains in DUC but will move Subway up from Nite Class this summer and extend its hours.

Pam Kelley, Kelli McCalister and Jennifer Hanor, all freshmen from Evansville, Ind., dined in Garrett Monday to get a change from eating at DUC.

“The food was awesome,” Kelley said of her fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

The threesome sat at old tables between the two rows of new lunch counters. The walls around them were repainted this summer with bright greens, reds and oranges. Approximately half of the floor was replaced with new white tiles.

The temperature around them was noticeably cooler courtesy of new air conditioning and exhaust systems installed by Western over the summer.

Morris said Aramark wanted to spruce up its existing facilities. Furniture, faster cash registers and new artwork for the walls are on the way, she said.

Those additions, as well as the new soft drink dispensers are supposed to help Garrett support more student traffic.

Morris said Aramark wanted to clear up the congestion during peak dining hours.

“Our primary goal is to get people in and out of here as efficiently as possible,” she said.

Garrett’s new look did not go unnoticed by Bowling Green freshman Heidi Royse.

“It doesn’t look as industrial,” Royse said. “It looks more cozy.”

Auxiliary Services Director Rob Chrisler said the final look of Garrett would be “somewhere between retro fifties and airport modern” and include new furniture like booths, barstools and decorations like classic movie posters.

The changes were recommended by a food services committee composed of representatives from the Student Government Association, Housing and Residence Life and Student Affairs. The committee’s suggestions were made during negotiations for Aramark’s new 15-year food services contract which was approved last semester.

About $1.5 million of the changes have been completed this semester and the remaining $2 million will be spent this summer upgrading Topper Cafe in DUC, Chrisler said.

Aramark replaced DUC’s McDonald’s with a sandwich grill because students complained about cleanliness and food quality, Chrisler said.

Student business with the fast food chain was also floundering, he said.

While food sales across campus rose 20 percent over every year for the past five years, McDonald’s reported dwindling sales.

Los Angeles sophomore Garrett Snyder said he was pleased to find more options at Grille Works for his meal plan.

He said he liked the seasoned fries more than McDonald’s but his sandwich fell short.

“They didn’t cook my burger all the way through,” Snyder said, showing the pink in the center of the meat.

The renovations have also brought a change in the hours food is offered on campus.

Topper Cafe will now be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and for brunch and dinner on the weekend. Last year, Topper was closed on weekends.

Food Services Director Barry Wells said the extended hours and weekend service were approved after last year’s sales showed a significant percentage of meal plan use during the weekend.

“The athletes are really excited about it,” Wells said. “Coaches have been asking for that for years.”

Aramark expanded Garrett’s hours from 2:30 p.m. in previous years to 7 p.m. this year. But, the Subway in Garrett now closes at 2:30 p.m. It used to stay open until 7 at night.

Wells said the Subway couldn’t remain open with expanded hours of Garrett because there are fewer diners at Garrett after 2:30 p.m.

Aramark felt it could increase the number of student diners at late hours by offering more variety, Wells said.

Deli sandwiches will still be available in the food court as well as items like pizza, hamburgers and other grilled items. The Home Zone will close early.

The new schedule left Clay Brunton, a senior from Mount Vernon, Ind., locked out of his usual sub sandwich dinner after a late class.

“I guess I’ll go over (to Garrett),” Brunton said. “I’d rather go over to Subway.”

Reach Hollan Holm at [email protected] ENDITAL