Chartwells contract renewed for 10 years

ReAnne Utemark

The Washburn University Board of Regents gave Washburn students something to chew on during the March 20 meeting. The board voted to extend Chartwells’ contract for 10 years. As part of the extension, Chartwells offered to pay for $700,000 worth of renovations to both the Union Market and the Corner Store.

According to Bob Storey, chairperson of the Board of Regents, Chartwells approached the administration with the proposal that they would renovate the Union Market and the Corner Store if the Regents would extend their contract to recoup their expenses.

“They’ve done a great job for us,” said Storey.

Storey said Chartwells gathered student feedback. According to the board of regents minutes, the student feedback was from surveys conducted last fall. Storey said he was not aware of any complaints from students.

“They made a great proposal,” said Storey. “We thought it was a good deal for the University.”

Duke Divine, director of business services in the Memorial Union, said the changes would be ready for students in the fall. New additions to the Union Market will be an Asian-concept station, changes and improvements to the salad bar, and changes to the grill and sandwich station. At the Corner Store, there will be more hot food available and more grocery items. These will include physical changes and expansions to the Union Market area and the Corner Store.

“The main thing is that Chartwells will invest $700,000 in the food court and the C-Store, which will improve services immediately for current and future students,” said Divine.

Matt Beadleston, director of food services, cited the congestion during the lunch time rush as part of the inspiration for these changes. He said the changes in layout and the changes to the Corner Store would help ease this. Beadleston said the outer wall of the Corner Store will be pushed out, giving the space an extra 300 – 400 square feet. This will allow Chartwells to put the new food options in.

Beadleston said the results from the survey given last fall was a mixture of roughly 350 students, faculty and staff. All of the changes are an outgrowth of the results of that survey. Beadleston said the salad bar will better equipped to deal with meat for salads, and the process would be faster. The grill will be changed from Coyote Jack’s to the Ichabod Tailgate which will offer not only burgers and fries, but also items like jalapeno poppers, nachos and mozzarella sticks. Beadleston said the Asian food concept in particular stood out as a request from the completed surveys.

Many of the new modifications will be made with local contractors.

“Money will be generated here in the city,” said Beadleston.

While the new options sound appetizing, some students seemed surprised with the Regents’ decision.

Amy Billinger, Washburn Student Government Association vice president, said she was initially shocked.

“So many students have come to me complaining about it,” said Billinger.

She also said she had not heard a positive student reaction yet. She said it was the understanding of the WSGA administration and the newly developed Food Services Committee that the contract was renewed yearly. Billinger said there will be discussion on the issue at the next WSGA meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Kansas Room of the Memorial Union.

“I’ve heard from students that they will be writing letters to the board members and I will likely make my opinion known to them as well,” said Billinger.

In addition to being the WSGA vice president, Billinger is a student with a severe food allergy. She said that after three years of living on campus and being required to have a meal plan, she tried to work around her Gluten allergy.

“No one seemed to understand the severity of the problem,” said Billinger. “I have heard that from a lot of students. I had to move off campus because I could no longer live with a meal plan because the right kind of food wasn’t being provided. I didn’t have a lot of options.”

Billinger said she has gotten complaints from students not only about food allergies and cross contamination, but also the overall lack of healthy food in general.

“Students needed to be represented in this decision more,” said Billinger. “I am frustrated that student opinion wasn’t sought out more.”