There has been a lot of buzz simmering about the change in dining vendors at Florida Gulf Coast University, and with Chartwells officially taking the spatula from Aramark on Monday, May 2, let’s put all the chatter on the front burner and see what’s cooking.
For starters, there’s a documented commitment to buying green and local, tossing out some old and bringing in some new restaurant choices, plans for an innovative North Lake Village dining facility and — drum roll, please — the arrival of Dunkin’ Donuts on campus.
It seems that Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services, as this sector of Compass Group North America is called, is off to a tantalizing start in bringing its self-described “new mission to the table — to be the place where hungry minds gather.”
Let’s begin with the big news: In what almost seems like a ceremonial changing of the guard to commemorate the new 10-year dining deal between FGCU and Chartwells, the University on Tuesday signed on to the Real Food Campus Commitment.
The university’s contract with the Real Food Challenge — which works to create a healthy, fair and green food system — is the culmination of a student-led push that has been going on since Student Government unanimously passed a senate resolution in 2014 calling for FGCU’s compliance. FGCU joins 38 other schools and both California university systems in signing the commitment, becoming the first Florida institution to do so.
The RFC movement’s overall goal is to shift $1 billion of existing university food budgets away from industrial farms and junk food and toward community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources — what the group calls “real food” — by 2020.
Tuesday’s commitment by FGCU specifies that 20 percent of the university food budget must be spent on local, organic, sustainable and ethically humane food by 2020, and that Chartwells must offer vegan or vegetarian options at each dining location. As part of FGCU’s implementation plan, the university will increase the amount of goods meeting the RFC criteria by 5 percent annually after 2020, until 60 percent compliance is achieved. Also, animal products from concentrated feeding operations and seafood not listed on the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch green list will comprise less than 30 percent of food purchases. The agreement also includes a timeline for completing a campus food survey and devising new real-food policies and multiyear action plans.
Ashley Farquhar, sustainability manager for FGCU Dining Services who herself made the move to Chartwells from Aramark, will have three paid interns work with her and Katie Leone, FGCU’s sustainability manager, on the student-led initiative to ensure RFC compliance.
“I am already in the process of meeting with our vendors and letting them know of this commitment and the importance of it,” Farquhar said. “I will be working closely with my executive chef (Gary Kwiatowski), who oversees the entire campus and will be a tremendous help to the RFC.
“We all look forward to working with FGCU to create a more sustainable food system,” she said.
Now that we’ve made the commitment toward greater sustainability, let’s get on to the figurative meat-and-potatoes stuff: the revised menu of campus dining options. But before we review the changes, it’s important to note something that isn’t going to change for a while: the cost of meal plans for students, which Chartwells agreed to keep the same for the first three years of the contract.
While students can eat green for the same green, they also can spread the lettuce around at some new places to meet and eat.
The first change is immediate, when Papa John’s takes over for Truly Organic Pizza in the Cohen Center. The popular Chick-fil-A, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Jamba Juice and Blu Sushi remain at Cohen, with Einstein Bros. due for a summer 2017 renovation and Blu to get a name change.
Also out are Subway and Taco Bell in Howard Hall in favor of Boar’s Head and Burger-Fi, both of which will be on board in the fall, while Azul’s will remain in that location. Meanwhile, The Link and the C3 Convenience store both will be replaced by grab-and-go food spots called Outtakes.
In the spirit of competitive brand loyalty demonstrated by such epic clashes of edibility as Coke vs. Pepsi and Heinz vs. Hunts, campus coffee incumbent Starbucks will get a run for your money from a freestanding Dunkin’ Donuts between Holmes Hall and the faculty parking lot. The Dunk will be open in late fall, but sorry — no drive-through at this otherwise full-service location. Not to worry, Starbuckaroos — your ventis will continue to be poured at the library, although a renovation is scheduled in summer 2017.
Finally, construction is about to begin on a new diner in North Lake Village behind Eagles Landing, expected to be finished in summer 2017 — just in time for a major renovation to begin at SoVi Dining (which should be finished by fall 2017). The NLV concept is almost like a community center; besides the indoor dining area, there will be a stage for performances, a game room and media room for students and staff to gather.
That about wraps it all up. If you want to learn more about how Chartwells is going about — as described in a news release — making a commitment to people, cuisine, community, culture and ideas at FGCU, check out the company website.