By Olivia Krauth–
In Aramark’s first two weeks of being U of L’s dining partner, U of L Associate Vice President for Business Affairs Mark Watkins estimates they’ve seen two to three million transactions and received positive student feedback. The Cardinal sat down with Watkins to see what is in store for campus dining in the future.
Describing the system as “a lot different” from last year, students with meal swipes can use them at nearly every campus restaurant and The Ville Grill to purchase value meals. The value meals offered at each eatery are displayed by the cash register. At The Ville Grill, students have six guest meals per semester to swipe in friends who also have meal swipes.
“We’re providing you a meal exchange, there’s hardly any need for the guest meals,” Watkins said.
What’s coming this semester
Some advertised restaurants, like Panda Express, were not open when the fall semester began – but they will be by the spring semester.
“When the operations were proposed, they said fall. They didn’t say when in fall,” Watkins said. “We knew it was unrealistic to have all of the venues open by Aug. 21.” Construction on new restaurants will begin Sept. 6 and should last about eight weeks.
Panda Express, Twisted Taco, two full Starbucks in the SAC and Ekstrom Library and a new Subway on the first floor of Davidson Hall will all be in the works. Once the new Subway opens where a study area currently is, Wendy’s will expand into Subway’s space in the SAC. Twisted Taco is slated to be the late night option, staying open until midnight during the week and until 10 p.m. on the weekend.
The Health Sciences Campus will gain an Au Bon Pain and full Starbucks.
What’s coming in the future
Several new restaurants are planned for the new SAC, set to be finished in May 2017. Plans aren’t finalized, but current plans feature a larger Chik-fil-a and Wendy’s, as well as a marketplace with different styles of food.
The 15-year Aramark contract includes $33 million in renovations of restaurants and built-in meal plan price increases for the first three years. According to Watkins, the increases are three percent or inflation, whichever is greater.
Phasing out food trucks
Watkins said Aramark has been offering food trucks around campus to make sure there are enough options for students, but they plan on phasing them out as the new options open. Watkins also noted if one truck is doing well, they aren’t opposed to letting them stick around.
Picking up the pace
Watkins said student reactions have been pretty positive, but Aramark is working on reducing lines. He said Mark’s Feed Store has dropped their average ticket time to four minutes, and McAlister’s has dropped from 18 minutes last year to 10 this semester. They’re also working on training new employees and hiring more students – Watkins said there are about 70 open positions in dining services.
Sodexo-ran Ville Grill received four C ratings from the Health Department in three years. The Aramark contract has a plan for that. If a restaurant gets a C – a failing grade – there will be a consequence. If a restaurant gets an A, there will be a reward. Watkins said the Health Department was “very happy” with Aramark during a summer restaurant check. The lowest scores was a B, which is considered passing.
File photo / The Louisville Cardinal