Following the renewal of Aramark’s dining services contract in February, there will be a variety of changes and updates to dining services this semester, primarily the addition of new dining options.
Brand new options provided by Aramark, Trinity’s dining service provider since 1984, include a fully licensed Starbucks that will replace EcoGrounds in the library, a Sandwich Shack that will replace the CSI P.O.D., a Chick-fil-A that will be added to the Revolve concept in the Commons, an On the Fly mobile food truck and the Tiger Press Juice Bar.
Some of the dining changes will be expansions and updates on options that were already available, including a new system that will allow students to use their meal swipes at dining locations other than Mabee for a value of up to $6.50.
“The most exciting dining option is probably the meal swipe exchange,” Charles Robles, Aramark’s food service director, wrote in an email. “I think it will give students a more flexible meal experience when they can exchange a residential meal swipe once a day for a meal anywhere on campus.”
Paul Wright, director of business operations in the Tiger Card office, and Bruce Bravo, senior director of conferences and auxiliary services, both served on the Dining Services Request for Proposal (RFP) Committee. The committee, made up of faculty, staff and students, was responsible for awarding a vendor with the new dining contract.
“We sent the RFP to eight vendors, four decided to respond, the committee eliminated one after reviewing all the proposals, and so we brought the remaining three in for on-campus interviews,” Wright, who chaired the committee, said. “We eliminated one after the on-campus interviews, then we did our due diligence on the other two, which were Aramark and American Dining Creations, who would have been fairly new to this area. So based on that, we ended up with Aramark.”
Bravo elaborated on why Aramark was chosen over the other vendors who sent in proposals.
“We felt [Aramark] had the best management team,” Bravo said. “We were very impressed with the other vendor’s presentation, especially their on-campus presentation. Their personnel was extremely poised and they were great presenters. However, we know that anybody could stand up there and impress you with what they say. David Tuttle, myself and Paul went up to see their only college and it simply was not as impressive as we thought it would be. They simply did not have the track record or the history that would have caused us to take a chance on a new company like this.”
Other dining changes in Mabee include the addition of a teaching kitchen, an allergy-free station, a vegetarian and vegan station and a coffee shop — the Daily Grind — which will feature local roasters.
Most of the new dining options are scheduled to open towards the beginning of the fall semester. The Daily Grind, the teaching kitchen in Mabee, Steak ‘n’ Shake and updates to the lighting and restrooms in Mabee are planned to be complete by the time classes start. The meal exchange option will also be available at the beginning of the semester.
Construction is not scheduled to begin on Sandwich Shack until after Thanksgiving break, but the CSI P.O.D. will remain open until that construction begins. Starbucks is scheduled to open on Sept. 10, and coffee will not be available for purchase in the library until then. Until then, On the Fly mobile food truck and Tiger Press Juice Bar may serve as alternative options.
“We’re hoping that those two options can station themselves at peak times around the library to pick up the slack,” Bravo said. “Aramark is going to try to figure out a way to serve people in that area to supplement what we’re doing until the Starbucks can open.”
Benjamin Harris, head of instruction services in Coates Library, was a member of a group of faculty and staff and students who developed a library renovation plan for the future. Although the addition of the Starbucks in the library was not directly affected by this group, it was something that Harris felt was much needed.
“They were implementing some of the things we were going to suggest even without us suggesting them,” Harris said.
Harris expressed some of his specific concerns with EcoGrounds, such as the products available for purchase and the physical setup of the coffee shop.
“I think that the food selection, they had tried to upgrade it when they went from Java City to EcoGrounds, and they’re revisiting that, rethinking their food options in the new Starbucks situation,” Harris said. “Those chairs were so uncomfortable; the tables were really small. If any place in the library is more comfortable physically than the coffee shop, that’s a problem. Just because of the workflow of this revision, the new furniture will probably not be in immediately whenever Starbucks opens — they’ll be bringing it in during the fall semester.”
Harris hopes that the renovations will create a much more welcoming space overall.
“Ideally it’s going to be a fresher, more comfortable space to stay for a while and also a place with a better and a different variety of products,” Harris said. “Generally, we’re very excited about the change and we’re very excited to refresh that space and the product and we hope that students really enjoy it. We hope that students find it a really comfortable and enjoyable place to come.”