Proposed agreement would transform dining services at Eastern Michigan University with massive investment

YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan University plans to enter into a partnership that will result in a dramatic transformation of its campus-wide dining and dining services, a move that promises to strongly appeal to current and prospective students, and to University employees.

The agreement with Chartwells Higher Education to provide residential, retail and catering food services will be presented to the EMU Board of Regents Tuesday (June 21) at its regular meeting. The agreement would take effect July 1, 2016.

Under the plan, Chartwells will provide significant capital investment in the University’s dining facilities. The company will fund extensive renovation and remodeling, along with introducing exciting new food vendors and developing new dining spaces in additional buildings on campus. Plans include a number of new well-known vendors consistent with some of those requested in a recent survey of students.

Also included in Chartwells’ plan are significant initiatives regarding:

• the participation of the campus community in terms of providing suggestions and ideas about food options and services, including a survey of students, faculty, and staff at least twice each academic year;

• improved use of technology, including mobile apps to check menus and in which immediate feedback can be provided about food services and requests can be made for new products or services and online ordering;

• new expanded use for students of meal plan “flex dollars” at all Eastern dining locations (except catering, concessions, and vending);

• greater involvement with the surrounding community, commitments to sustainable practices and local sourcing of food;

• local food trucks.

Under the agreement, all current EMU dining employees will remain EMU employees, with salaries and benefits in accordance with current applicable collective bargaining agreements.

“We greatly value our dining employees and are grateful for the outstanding services they provide for our students and the entire campus community,” said Don Loppnow, interim president at Eastern Michigan. “I want to sincerely thank them for their ongoing distinguished and hard work on behalf of the University. We are pleased they will continue to remain University employees under this agreement.”

In addition, Chartwells agrees that it will employ EMU students for an equal or greater number of hours annually as exists in the University’s current dining operations. Student employees will be paid at a highly competitive wage rate.

“The primary reasons for seeking to enter into this truly transformative agreement are the substantial financial incentives and capital investments that the vendor will make in our University,” Loppnow said. “Funding from an outside vendor makes it possible to expand and upgrade dining facilities while maintaining the high quality food offerings and services that have been our standard here.

“This process will allow us to continue to focus even more directly on our primary mission of academics and educating students, while turning over food services to an organization that provides high quality services at many colleges and universities and local school districts across the country. This is where they excel.”

Eastern Michigan joins a variety of other large Michigan public universities in working with an outside partner to run its dining services. These include: Central Michigan, Oakland, Wayne State and Grand Valley State universities. A recent national review found that 74 percent of universities nationwide utilize a third-party to provide food services.

The recommendation to the Board of Regents culminates a process in which the University issued an RFP (request for proposals) in April for food service operations on campus. Among the requirements were: ten (10) plus years as a contract food service operator including higher education clients; multiple higher education client operations with 15,000+ students; and financial resources to self-fund proposed capital investment and working capital necessary for such an operation. 

Special consideration was given to ensuring employment opportunities for current employees, incorporation of student preferences, commitment to sustainability and collaboration with the local community.

About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest university in Michigan. It currently serves 22,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

June 17, 2016

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom