Eastern Michigan University Dining Services held its grand reopening in the Student Center on Thursday, Oct. 13 in commemoration of contracting with Chartwells, a catering service that works with over 280 colleges.
There were samples of new food for students to try, a ribbon cutting ceremony and entrance for a chance at prizes with the main attraction being a free meal plan.
Student Body President Tanasia Morton spoke at the ribbon cutting ceremony and was enthusiastic about the new privatization of EMU’s dining. “The options are close to what we had already or better,” said Morton.
EMU joins other Michigan universities partnered with Chartwells such as Oakland, Spring Arbor, Sienna Heights and Olivet.
Students compare new dining options
EMU students Addie Oblanas and Mia Forman heard about the reopening in class.
“I think some of it’s interesting. I don’t like how they changed the vegetarian sandwiches—I really liked them last year,” Forman said. “I’m not a vegetarian but I think it’s a healthier option.”
Forman also thinks the sandwiches were better before the privatization.
“I liked the sandwiches a lot last year and I just feel like I can’t get a sandwich anywhere unless I go to the Commons and make one,” Oblanas said.
“A lot of the stuff in the marketplace isn’t in the meal plan anymore, which is kind of an adjustment, but mostly it’s still good food,” she continued.
Kyle Scott, product and design development major, didn’t think dining had a good place to get subs or sandwiches and feels like the new brands are better than past options.
“I like what Eastern’s doing by going with a third party. I feel like it gives more options to students; as a junior I feel like it’s better than what it currently had been,” Scott said.
“Before they had Subway and Wendy’s, which you couldn’t use meal plans with, so I like that they made the new options of Smashburger and Mondos -- which use the meal plan,” he continued.
Ifrahsh Oukad, EMU biology major, is happy to see a new Mediterranean cuisine available from Za’tar.
“It’s really cool for the people who don’t like to eat meat, so it provides a place for them to come here and eat food,” Oukad said.
Growing Hope farm stand
Outside the Student Center, a different kind of food cart was set up for the first time on campus. EMU Dining invited Growing Hope, a non-profit organization based in Ypsilanti, to offer fresh produce to students, featuring only Michigan-grown fruits and produce at a mobile farm stand.
Robert Nisley, Ypsilanti Farmer’s Market manager, was present to introduce the new farm stand.
“So far we’ve only been open for about 20 minutes and we’ve had three sales already. We’re quite hopeful we’ll be received very well,” Nisley said.
“I hope the student body will embrace us.”
The cart will be on campus for the next six Wednesdays, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., outdoors until Nov. when it will move indoors.
“It’s all fresh. Most of this was harvested just yesterday as opposed to something that could be a week and a half old that’s been shipped from across the country,” he said.
Growing Hope also gave away free apples to anyone willing to pose for a photo, part of the #MIAppleCrunch
Vegan and vegetarian options
For diners, it’s now easier to locate vegan and vegetarian options. There was also an outdoor table offering free samples of quinoa chili with a recipe to take home.
EMU’s Dining Registered Dietician, Callie de Gracia, explained how these increasingly popular options are easier to find now.
“There’s a lot of vegan and vegetarian options available on campus, I think people just weren’t familiar with how to find them,” de Gracia said. “So now we have logos to help people navigate.”
The green logos indicate vegetarian and blue indicates vegan. Both options can be found on the menus and in front of food displays as well as on the website.
EMU student Alexandria Sikora enjoyed the free samples offered at the re-opening.
“The chili was delicious and I think this is a great idea to get students to know what’s offered here,” Sikora said. “They have the recipes for us so you can see what’s actually in it.”
Chartwells celebrates new partnership
Chartwells representatives were present to celebrate the new partnership with EMU and have plans to expand their food service in more locations on campus.
“We’re having a lot of positive feedback to the new brands,” said Chris Yeadon, Chartwells director of dining services. “There’s been a lot of comments about price-value relationship, and the pricing on that is at the right place.”
The new partnership has brought several new brands to the dining hall such as Smashburger and Mondos, and will soon relocate and transform the current Starbucks to include its full menu. Others new brands to be introduced include Zingerman’s Coffee and Chik-fil-A.
“I think it’s going to be wonderful partnerships as we go forward and expand our dining options on campus for all of the students,” said Joe Vetter, Chartwells' district manager.
Chartwells District Marketing Manager, Mary Dunn, wanted to bring the students together to show them the changes that have been made.
“We’re working really hard to implement everyone’s suggestions and keeping up the good work when they love something,” Dunn said.
“We really want to get students involved so that it can be a great partnership and so that we’re doing exactly what they want.”
Dunn hopes for feedback on social media and wants to see students more involved in dining more than before.
Dining services has recently received numerous applications from students to work at the new dining restaurants.
“We just had our soft opening of Mondos and all of the students working there did an amazing job, they’re just super excited to work at these new brands,” Dunn said.
Dunn thinks that they can get commuters to stay on campus longer at the dining hall.
“I think the more we can get people to buy meal plans and get connected with dining, the campus is better off as a whole,” Dunn said.
Kelly Guralewski, EMU’s dining marketing director, explained that listening to feedback was important and their goal is furthering students’ interest in the dining services.
EMU Dining debuted their @emichdining Snapchat during the open, using the #foodemu to rally students around the dining experience. There was a balloon version of the hashtag for photos.
Brian Mansfield, Chartwells’ east-central regional culinary director, was also in attendance for the grand opening.
“It’s great to see the transformations,” Mansfield said. “The Mondos here is the next generation of that concept—we’ve updated the look and the menu so it has a real modern feel to it. I also love seeing the Eagle’s Nido and how we’ve slightly renovated and tweaked the concept.”