Chartwells brings $5 footlongs and adds Zoup

By Rory McCarty

By RORY MCCARTY

Senior Reporter

Visitors to the Pioneer Food Court in the Oakland Center may have noticed some changes in the Chartwell’s cafeteria. The addition of Zoup to the food options and the introduction of $5 footlong subs at Subway are the most recent in a series of changes Chartwells is making to their food selections and pricing this semester.

Chartwells is the food vendor for the cafeterias in the OC and Vandenberg Dining Hall, and provides catering services throughout campus. Chartwells started working more closely with students to resolve issues after many students complained about services and food at an OU Student Congress meeting in October 2008.

Andrew Willows, Chartwells’ resident district manager, said it is “working with the students to help them understand how they can use us as a resource.”

Willows said the addition of Zoup to the Pioneer Food Court came from a survey that was taken in the spring of 2008. Chartwells brought out samples of Zoup products for students to try and asked if they’d be interested in having it added to the OC’s cafeteria. He said the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Another change in the Pioneer Food Court is the addition of $5 footlong sub sandwitches to the Subway. Most Subways have adopted this pricing for specific subs from its menu late last year, but OU’s Subway remained exempt from the deal. Now, Pioneer Food Court’s subway has dropped its prices not only for the $5 footlongs, but for other subs as well.

“Because of the $5 subs, we’ve reduced the pricing on other subs, to keep our pricing in balance,” said Michelle Brown, Chartwells’ assistant retail manager.

The introduction of the price switch at Subway is one of the results of Chartwells working with Oakland University Student Congress to work out solutions to student complaints about Chartwells.

One thing they’ve done is establish a student focus group. Chartwells is having its first meeting this Friday with the group to discuss services, menu and prices.

Other changes Chartwells made include providing healthier and vegetarian options in the Vandenberg Dining Hall and catering services. Willows said they’ve begun using biodegradable packaging and coffee cups in cooperation with Sustainability Outreach Peer Educators. And in February, they plan to begin selling reusable mugs that can be refilled at a discounted price.

“The goal is to give the student body ownership over pricing and menu items that they would like to see,” Willows said.

Andrew Bashi, OUSC student services director, said that Chartwells has been improving, but he has more ideas on what they can do next. Bashi has proposed to have Chartwells buy organic produce from a planned student-run garden.

Another idea is creating GrizzCounts: a student discount program that would work at nearby restaurants off campus, similar to what schools like the University of Michigan Ann Arbor has.

“That way we can say, hey, if Chartwells isn’t willing to give us cheaper food, we’ll go somewhere else,” he said. He hopes to have the program implemented by the end of the semester.

Though optimistic about the changes Chartwells has made, Bashi said it’s too soon to celebrate.

“We need to maintain pressure on them, or it’s going to be a one time thing,” he said.