What's New in Dining? Chartwells!
On May 15, Carnegie Mellon students received an email from Dean of Students Gina Casalegno, announcing the school’s new primary dining vendor: Chartwells Higher Education. This change came at the end of a nine-year contract with CulinArt Group, a name that had become as familiar to upperclassmen as the Cut or the Black Chairs.
In addition to the new vendor, the announcement promised renovations at numerous dining locations, more flexible meal plans, two new dining locations in the Tepper Quadrangle, and further investments in sustainability. On July 1, just six weeks after the email was sent, the contract officially began.
With class in session and dining locations full, the changes are apparent. Pure, a new dining concept located in the Tepper Quandrangle, offers a variety of meals free of growth hormones, artificial flavoring, and antibiotics. The focus, said Director of Dining Services Pascal Petter, is on health and wellness. “Our strategic plan, and the university strategic plan,” he said, “is to provide facilities that are engaging, social, and provide healthy options for students.”
The redesigned La Prima Espresso in Wean lobby and The Underground in Morewood Gardens embody the kind of thinking Petter expressed. The Underground features an entirely new floor plan with more space, an open kitchen environment, and improved lighting. Though the stage and the dingy lighting of yesteryear are gone, classic menu items such as the PB Banana Crunch are still available.
The La Prima stand in the Wean Lobby has been updated to a full counter with walled seating and line space that doesn’t interfere with foot traffic in the highly-congested area. The popular vendor is currently trying to secure a local contract to provide vegan and vegetarian Grab n’ Go options.
Stephanie’s in the Mellon Institute has been converted to an autonomous 24-hour snack bar named Market C. “Knowing the graduate students who work in Mellon, we wanted to provide a convenient location that also has fresh food,” said Petter, noting the challenging hours required of those students and the difficulties of staffing a location to accommodate those hours. Market C is located on the 4th floor of the Mellon Institute, and is completely automated; customers check out at a kiosk.
The Cohon Center dining cluster has been given a sleek gray paint scheme, with new concepts Bibimbap (serving Korean rice bowls), Bowl Life (a noodle bar), and Realwich (a sandwich bar serving meats free of nitrates).
The vegetarian and vegan Evgefstos has been rebranded as Roots, serving an updated menu of grain bowls, superfood bowls, and hot entrees. The City Grill is now the Back Bar Grill, serving familiar burgers and fries as well as new vegetarian options.
Also new in the Cohon Center are feedback kiosks, featuring touchscreen interfaces where students and visitors can quickly rate their dining experience. These stations are subtle, but they indicate an important shift in the culture of Dining Services. “We’re looking to have students be engaged with our dining program,” said Mr. Petter, “and to have input, quite honestly.”
In a proactive effort to improve the dining experience at Carnegie Mellon (Niche.com gave campus food a C+), Dining Services is opening its doors to students, offering a number of ways to get involved.
One exciting proposal penned by Chartwells is a rotating retail concept in which students get to vote on a particular cuisine for each semester. In this proposal, Chartwells chooses the most popular choice and develops a menu, to be offered for the duration of a semester.
Teaching Kitchen, another new project, will be starting this fall, offering chef-led student cooking classes in Schatz dining room. Dining Marketing Coordinator, Nutrition Educator and Dietitian Jessica Tones said that for these classes, simpler is better. “Most people want to learn to cook something that they would actually make again,.. ” explained the veteran cooking instructor. “Teaching someone how to make a vinaigrette can launch them into being able to make a wide variety of dishes.” Teaching Kitchen will happen on a pop-up basis, posted on Dining’s new events page AndyEATS, and will also be available for student organizations and group events.
In addition to student input on food, Dining Services plans to team up with students to take on sustainability issues in the near future. There are currently four locations on campus with composting capabilities; Dining Services and Chartwells hope to collaborate with student group CMU Sustainable Earth to increase that number and convert as much plastic packaging as possible to compostable materials, starting with the Resnik servery.
The issue of waste isn’t a simple procurement shift, however. “It’s one thing to put a compost bin out,” says Petter. “It’s another to communicate to our community what exactly goes in it.”
For more information on dining locations, engagement opportunities, grand openings, and samplings, visit the Dining Services website at www.cmu.edu/dining.