Eastern Michigan University announces major expansion and investment in its dining services

Ann Arbor’s Zingerman’s among many special new dining features included in plan

YPSILANTI – The Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents Tuesday approved a partnership that will result in a dramatic transformation of the University’s campus-wide dining and dining services, a plan that features a wide variety of exciting new vendors and service-related features.

The 10-year agreement with Chartwells Higher Education to provide residential, retail and catering food services was approved at the board’s regular meeting. The agreement takes effect July 1, 2016.

Distinctive dining locations under the agreement

The following food service providers are planned for the first year of the new agreement. Additional providers are planned in subsequent years.

  • Smashburger  – Specializing in handcrafted burgers.
  • Za’tar –A quick service Eastern Mediterranean concept featuring made on-site food.
  • Sono  – Latin inspired menu featuring tacos, burritos, ensaladas, rice bowls and tortas.
  • Mondos – A sandwich shop offering gourmet sub sandwiches, flatbreads and sides.
  • Starbucks – Chartwells will transform and relocate the current Starbucks in the student center to include its full menu, with artisan sandwiches, smoothies, and more. The cafe will be relocated to the existing Student Lounge area, and will feature outdoor sidewalk seating and views of the lake house and pond.
  • Chobani – Will feature Greek Yogurt and curated toppings in a self-serve setting.
  • Grill Nation – Featuring burgers fresh off the grill and short-order comfort foods.
  • Einstein Brothers – Featuring well-known bagel sandwiches and coffees.
  • Zingerman’s Coffee – Featuring the local flavors Eastern Michigan loves, Zingerman’s will be bringing its single estate, small batch coffees to campus.

Service-related and economic benefits

Also included in the dining services plan are significant service-related 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.
  • Food trucks. The University will bring food trucks to campus, delivering the hot culinary trends that students want. Working with local and respected proprietors in the EMU marketplace, the University will develop a food truck rotation.
  • Residential dining will feature a distinct menu cycle, including balanced choices, trendy food items and dishes that highlight the company’s culinary expertise and creativity.
  • Increased emphasis placed on sustainability, allowing for additional local purchases, recycling and other green waste reduction programs.

Under the agreement, Eastern Michigan will also receive significant capital investment in the University’s dining facilities. The University will perform extensive renovation and remodeling.

Key economic features of the agreement include:

  • A signing bonus of $5 million to Eastern Michigan University.
  • $18 million in initial capital funds, plus programmatic refresh funds in year four of the agreement.
  • $2.5 million for current graduate assistant scholarships.
  • $712,000 for graduate assistant salaries.

The University expects to realize $40 million in net present value over the life of the 10-year agreement.

Current dining employees to remain EMU employees

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, it is agreed that EMU student workers will be employed 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 University will retain control of board/meal plan rates. EMU has a long history of considering affordability for its students and those principals still apply, Loppnow said.

“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.”

Experienced in large-scale operations

The University notes that Chartwells is experienced in making such large-scale operations profitable, due to the economies of scale in which it operates and due to its large national and international purchasing power. There is believed to be additional demand across campus for more food service options – some of which became evident in the EMU student surveys this spring that pointed out the desire for additional locations on campus.

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.

For complete details and background about the process and objectives of this effort, please visit the dining services informational website.

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.

About Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services
Chartwells is the recognized leader in contract food service management, hospitality and award-winning guest service within 280 college and university dining environments throughout academic institutions across the U.S. Chartwells’ new brand mantra, “Where Hungry Minds Gather,” signifies its commitment to reinventing the dining experience for the next generation of students and beyond. “Our nutritious cuisine not only satisfies the unique appetites, lifestyles and dietary needs of every guest dining on campus, but it also brings people together to promote the high-intensity relationships that will prepare students for the future,” the company says. For more information, visit Chartwells’ websites at http://www.ChartwellsHigherEd.com, http://www.ChartwellsMonthly.com, http://www.DineonCampus.com.

June 21, 2016

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom