Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Food for Thought about Chartwells

Chartwells, the catering company and food provider for Seattle University, held an open forum and presentation on Wednesday, Feb. 28 as an opportunity for students to gain information and ask questions about the food provider switch starting July 1. A er 20 years of service, Bon Appetit will be leaving and Chartwells will begin their 10-year-long contract.

“We made a decision in January and here we are in that transition phase, so it’s a little bit of an awkward phase. We are not in the new contract yet,” Connie Kanter said, chief financial officer and vice president of finance and business affairs.

“Our provider is set in concrete,” Kanter said. “We are excited to be working with Chartwells, but they are still working on concepts in terms of the venues, and certainly the food choices.”

Large renovation projects are planned for Cherry Street Market, the Hawks Next Bistro and the Cave. Funding for these projects were big questions on students’ minds, as they watch annual tuition rise every year and because the meal plan rate is subject to change after Chartwells’ first year.

Funding will be split between Seattle U and Chartwells. Chartwells has been upfront with the university about their willingness to put in a significant financial investment toward renovations. Chartwells, at the moment, carries most of its locations on the East Coast and the Midwest of the United States.

One of the reasons Chartwells is putting extra effort into Seattle U is because the company plans to expand further into the West Coast. The university will be receiving an annual commission from Chartwells, similar to the current contract with Bon App.

Chartwells is a sister company of Bon App, meaning they are both owned by the same parent company, “We are basically transitioning to a different company under the same
people, so will it actually be any different then?” Celina Aguilar, a junior international business major and three-year-long employee with Bon App asked.

Chartwells buys all of its ingredients from the same companies as Bon App, because they hold the same major contracts.

However, they will be increasing the amount of local produce coming into Seattle U. As of right now, a total of 250 local producers and suppliers are set to work with Chartwells. They also plan to create and customize all menu options specifically for Seattle U.

“We fall under the same parent company as Bon App, so it will be a very seamless process for all of the union, hourly associates that are currently working with Bon App,” Michael Graupman, the district manager of Chartwells, said a er a question came up about job retention. “What we want to do is meet with every associate. Have them meet us after the meetings that we have set up and have them tell us if they want to stay.”

“The Chartwells people, they haven’t really given us any good information, so our bosses don’t know what’s going on either,” Aguilar said. “They haven’t told us what’s the transition for us being hired or not, so do we automatically get hired or do we have to reapply? It wasn’t clear.”

The staff sessions were held on March 1. Aguilar said she was working and could not attend. She added that she hoped to receive an email but never did. The Bon App staff found out about the transition just as students did, through a campus wide email on Feb. 14. Aguilar’s managers were told in person that same day.

Aguilar said she is most worried about the construction that will be happening during the summer. She doesn’t know if it will a ect her work schedule, or if any eateries will be temporary closing.

The management team are not guaranteed their positions. Aguilar is seeing many of her managers choosing not to reapply.

“You don’t know what type of people you are going to be working under anymore, and it’s kind of sad about all the people that have to leave now,” she said.

An employee at the Bistro—who wanted to remain anonymous but is an alumna and has been employed by Bon App for four years—said she went to the staff sessions and felt that Chartwells provided little help in reassuring the staff.

“They are not answering a lot of our questions fully, which I think is just to protect themselves because they don’t know what they are doing yet,” she said. “They answered in a positive attitude, but also very guarded.”

During the meeting, she asked Chartwells whether they would be asking for employee input on the needs of each location.
“They don’t want to hear from our experiences,” she said. “They basically told us that they are not going to ask us at all and that they are just going to follow what the university says.”

She also doesn’t feel like her management is taking the prospect of being rehired seriously because it is a new company that may not have the same standards for their employees.

“I’m kind of in the middle about Chartwells. I will miss Bon App. It was a great company,” she remarked.

When it comes to changes in food options, Chartwells stressed that they will seek student input through forums scheduled for the near future. During the first forum, one major question was whether food allergies would be taken more seriously, as well as vegan and vegetarian options.

Graupman answered that they plan to add a food station in C-street with entirely gluten-free options, without sesame seeds and without the eight most common food allergies. Every station will have vegan and vegetarian options as well.

Another student in the audience asked if Chartwells is open to starting a food pantry with their food waste.

Graupman stated that Chartwells had talked about the idea, but further discussion was needed with the university. He stated that a food pantry was a heavy project and that Chartwells was planning to work with student organizations and local non-pro ts to begin donations to food banks.

Future forums and events with the Chartwells’s team will be posted by Seattle U during the upcoming quarter. Chartwells urges students to contact them with input, questions or concerns at [email protected].

Erika may be reached at
[email protected]

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