How Chartwells picks your food

Dean Vaglia, Staff Reporter

On campus you can get three types of coffee, five types of restaurant experiences and an inconceivable amount of Chartwells-prepared meals. Why is that?

The dining options at Oakland University all came here in different ways, and Chartwells is here to handle all of them. Chartwells began working with OU in 2002 and has been handling the prepared food options on campus since then. Over time, the decisions made by Chartwells and the OU administration have shaped how on-campus dining looks today.

The three different coffee brands on campus — Starbucks, Einstein Brothers and Zingerman’s — fill different needs, according to Chartwells Resident District Manager Mark McCormic. Starbucks is used due to its familiarity.

“Starbucks is obviously the United States’ most popular brand of coffee,” McCormic said.

Einstein Brothers is used in the Engineering Center because of the expanded food options. The Pawley Hall satellite location was created to replace the “old gas station” convenience store in the summer of 2016, according to McCormic.

Zingerman’s, the newest coffee option, is a local Michigan brand that replaced Au Bon Pain for coffee in the Oakland Center. McCormic said the artisanal coffee supplier is partnered with Plum Market, who is responsible for bringing the brand to OU.

While Zingerman’s was a package deal with Plum Market, tandem vendor contracts are the exception, not the rule. According to OC Director Chris Reed, companies looking to do business at OU have to respond when the school puts out requests for proposals.

“You get a number of vendors that will submit [proposals], and then we do a full vetting process and we choose which vendor we feel is best for campus based off of what they proposed they could provide and what we feel is going to fit best on campus,” Reed said, explaining the selection process.

While the food court has set daily menus for each of the restaurants, the dining halls operates on a rotating four-week menu.  

“For each semester we build these four week menu rotations,” McCormic said. “You’ll notice, ‘hey, last time I had battered cod, right next to it was mac and cheese,’ and you’re going to notice that those things tend to repeat every four weeks. What that does is makes you provide a lot of variety for the products and gives us a lot of data on what people are using.”

McCormic’s data is collected by monitoring how much food comes back to the kitchens. If 100 lbs. of food is made and 40 lbs. of it returns to Chartwells, McCormic determines that the food was not popular and can investigate how it was made, where it was placed and if too much was made to see if changing anything would make the meal more popular.

Student feedback to Chartwells is not just limited to how much food is not eaten. Chartwells recently ended an online survey with about 200 responders. Focus groups are held every spring and students can leave comments on the Dine On Campus website. For problems in dining halls, students are encouraged to text the “Text 2 Solve” number.

McCormic said there were no plans currently to change any of the dining options — “with the Plum Market/Zimerman’s renovation we have a little bit of time” — but was open for change in the future.