Catering on college campuses can be a hectic affair, and those who cater have many responsibilities, especially if their university client contracts them to facilitate all food produced and distributed on campus.
Chartwells Food Industry advocates for its consumers and food workers to “eat green, build green, run green and return green.” Chartwells uses biodegradable consumer food packaging, plates and utensils made from compostable materials such as bamboo and corn byproducts. They also integrate the use of 100 percent certified seafood, cage-free shell eggs, grass-fed beef, rBGH free milk and chicken products, as well as turkey and pork raised without the use of antibiotics.
On their manufacturing and promotional websites, the Chartwells organization upholds a food philosophy that states, “We source seasonal and local food products first; local artisans are first on our list of providers. We seek out ingredients and menu items that are unique to the campus, tailor to local sourcing and fulfill the commitment to the unique climate of each campus.”
In order to uphold its philosophy, Chartwells requires its food producers to cook burgers fresh to order, offer vegetarian options and allow its consumers to influence and create the menu. Chefs use the demographic makeup of each campus to create and develop its menu, to innovate to current taste and make its food items from scratch. Chartwells’ chefs are also required to tailor diets for an individual’s food sensitivities and educate the students and members of the community on the nutritional quality of its food.
Chartwells Dining offers a seasonal salad bar, natural and cooked to order burgers, all-natural and freshly-shaved deli meat, natural food ingredients and nutrition-rich items such as protein shakes and meal-replacement shakes.
Currently, there are eight universities in the state of Pennsylvania that use Chartwells as its main source of dining for their students. Besides Clarion University, the following colleges and universities employ Chartwells Dining Services: Chestnut Hill College, Edinboro University, King’s College, Marywood University, Shippensburg University, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and York College of Pennsylvania.
Chartwells is currently partnered with the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs. Together, they study the impacts of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and how its principles can be innovated into its food programs to help students choose and embrace nutrient-rich foods.
Chartwells’ parent company, Compass Group North America, is the leader in foodservice management and support services. Compass Group North America serves campus dining, vending, specialty dining, senior dining, restaurants and corporate cafés.
Clarion has Chartwells prepare all food for Clarion Dining and Clarion University Catering. The dining aspect includes all eateries on campus from Eagle Commons (Eagle Grille and Golden Dinner among others) and the Gemmell Food Court establishments (including Mondo Subs and Budget Bites) to The Den by Denny’s and the university Starbucks location in the Suites on Main South.
Chartwells also facilitates all catering requested by Recognized Student Organizations (RSOs) and other programs on campus. One example is the recent recruitment event hosted in the Grunenwald Science and Technology Center on behalf of the Student Honors Association to entice new student volunteers with food and drink for their first meeting in the club.
Chartwells’ services are more expensive than some other catering options. Catering on campus is an effective monopoly orchestrated by Clarion University, but there are reasons for the business arrangement between state school and food provider.
Senior Director of Dining Services Jeffrey MacTaggart defends his organization’s operations and offered to shed light on dining and catering in Clarion University.
“We’re contracted by the university to handle all food services,” emphasized MacTaggart.
That is the official stance of Chartwells. However, MacTaggart disclosed that there is leeway for some cases at its discretion. Otherwise, according to the contract with the university, even minor cases of food sales in the Gemmell rotunda to support charitable causes or the random pizza at club meetings would not be allowed.
“We’re here to help [clubs, students],” MacTaggart stated. He said that if some food orders are very small, it can actually be counterproductive and not cost-efficient to mobilize employees to cater events.
This also explains why Clarion University and Chartwells allow girl scouts to sell cookies on campus for example. Odds are, if you want to entice members to show up for club meetings with some snacks, Chartwells will let you do that. MacTaggart insists you just have to ask.
“The goal of [the university] is to keep them a happy student,” said MacTaggart. The issue of catering on campus is not as black-and-white as some may think, and there seems to be an air of general understanding that students may not be aware of.
“There’s no food police,” MacTaggart insisted.
Chartwells says they will work with students and its RSOs to keep catering within club budgets. Two-way communication is essential for that process.
“There’s a lot of involvement in the whole thing,” MacTaggart said.
Since Chartwells is practically the only way to order food for on-campus events, speaking with RSOs was a great way to gather information of what the costs meant to students and how they went about ordering food.
RSOs schedule events on campus to get students involved and acquainted with other people, and having food at these events is important to the organizations. The catering from Chartwells is the only way for the RSOs to get that food to have at the events.
Pricing on food such as cookies, pizza and pop are seen as overpriced to some organizations. Student groups are given a set amount of money to use each year, and if catering takes a chunk of that cash out of spending accounts, then that leaves less room to do actual events on campus.
One RSO that gave its opinion on Chartwells catering was the University Activities Board. Vice President Vickash Sasenarine spoke highly of the catering service, and UAB uses the catering service for some events. Sasenarine likes to “order food that people get excited about, like wings, pizza, that kind of stuff.”
When asked how UAB thought about the Chartwells service, Sasenarine stated, “One thing you always know about Chartwells is that they are always there. If anything ever goes wrong, they’re always there to fix it.”
Also adding input on the UAB Chartwells experience is President Emily Romig. She stated via email, “In the past, we have purchased things such as wings for events such as Wingo, and normally we purchase hot dogs and hamburgers for our Chillin’ and Grillin’ event.”
Having these foods at events really brings the campus together and draws people in. At meetings or smaller events, Romig said they occasionally order smaller treats like cookies or brownies.
Food at club meetings can be supplied by Chartwells under the stipulation that the entire student body would be allowed to eat it. In order to get their budgets approved and funded through the Clarion Students’ Association, RSOs can only budget for food that they need in order to complement special events, fundraise or recruit.
UAB has yet to run into any trouble with Chartwells and are overall satisfied with the catering on campus. The image to the left is a receipt from a UAB event utilizing Chartwells catering service.
Not all organizations on campus use this service; some prefer not to because of the pricing issue.
Clarion fraternity member of Sigma Phi Epsilon Scott Anderson expressed his opinions of Chartwells by saying via email that “they are extremely expensive when it comes to catering food.”
These organizations are able to fill out a right of refusal form if they do not want Chartwells catering. However, it does not work in the student’s favor because Chartwells will only accept the form if they cannot provide what you want to order for the event or meeting.
Sasenarine said for his Anthropology Club, they filled out a right of refusal form for Aztec hot chocolate. The organization first asked Chartwells if they could make the special hot chocolate, and they replied with ‘no.’ The Anthropology Club was then able to use its own methods of getting the hot chocolate.
Both UAB and the Anthropology Club order food according to the seasons. Sasenarine ordered hot chocolate for events that occurred during the cold winter months.
Since some of the RSOs do not use the catering services provided by Chartwells because of prices, then that in turn hurts not only the organization, but the university as well. Students may continue to refuse Chartwells’ services if the prices do not decrease.
Will Chartwells drop its prices to accommodate the students of Clarion, or will they keep the prices the same?
MacTaggart says Chartwells is somewhat expensive to some for a reason. Part of its contract with the university dictates how and with how much profit Chartwells gives back to the university community.
Chartwells gives $40,000 to promote student affairs every year. Also, 4.5 percent of all catering and dining profits goes back into the university funds directly. For the average services provided, this is on top of a 34 percent food cost and 20 percent labor cost that is figured into every price Chartwells sets on its menus.
“We’re given a lot of regulations to go by,” MacTaggart said, citing how Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools have to follow certain protocols that outside catering companies do not have to abide by. An emphasis on tougher background checks for incoming employees is placed by Clarion University.
Over the 40 years Chartwells has serviced university events and organizations, the business has also donated plenty of time and resources to some programs including $1,200 to each semester’s professional development day.
Part of students’ meal plans funds Chartwells, so they can be properly provided for by the catering and dining services.
MacTaggart said Chartwells always asks the question: “What can we do on campus for the students’ well-being?”
MacTaggart and his staff are using how much more intelligible students are now about their food than previous generations were in order to provide more varied and satisfying options for both catering and dining.
Consideration of a fourth meal zone for board payments from 9 to 11 p.m. is one result of students’ voices being heard by Chartwells.
“The goal of [the university] is to keep them a happy student,” stated MacTaggart regarding what he wants Chartwells to accomplish. Businesses in the greater Clarion community have a less happy dynamic with Chartwells.
The Chartwells catering monopoly of Clarion University has affected more than just what people on campus eat. The businesses around the university have felt the impact of the ever-growing chain of Chartwells food services. Businesses such as Wendy’s, Subway, McDonalds, Pizza Pub and many more noticed a change over the years.
The change with the restaurants in the local vicinity of the campus have experienced less business from students and faculty of Clarion. With the university being the highest employer in the county, it brings forth a great chunk of business that has been slowly declining from local fast food restaurants and other restaurants.
Chartwells’ restaurant business consist of all of the places you can buy food on campus. Plus, Chartwells has a catering operation that has to supply, and has supplied, food to any on-campus organizations.
The local Wendy’s restaurant, located right across from Harts Chapel, is well-known for serving students and faculty of the university. Lately, employees of the restaurant have noticed the lunch and dinner crowds have not had many students among them.
An employee of Wendy’s said, “I have noticed that I don’t take many orders for students, and they’re usually easy to spot. I don’t know if it’s a money issue with buying off-campus food even though our prices are low, and we offer discounted drinks for students.”
The employees at Pizza Pub have noticed that they just deliver strictly to off-campus housing and apartments and not many organizations on campus.
Subway Catering Prices
|Giant Sub||24 ft.||$384.00|
|Giant Sub||27 ft.||$432.00|
|Sandwich Platters||5-15 ppl||$38.00|
|Cookie Platters||36 ppl||$12.00|
Chartwells offers on- and off-campus catering services. Available catering facilities on campus include Eagle Commons and Carlson Library. Other campus locations must be requested through an online form.
Catering reservations can be made through the Chartwells Catering Department via telephone or online. The following information must be provided: group name, event date, time, approximate number of guests and event type. Specifics may then be planned through dineoncampus.com. Catering manager Debra Zacherl may be contacted for assistance.
Requests for off-campus catering are honored if the event does not coincide with the regular operation hours of campus dining services. Off-campus events must have a minimum of 15 guests, and off-campus buffet services require a 20-guest minimum.
Requests for off-campus catering by university organizations may be made through a first right of refusal form. The form must be approved by the director of catering and is usually reserved for fundraising purposes.
According to Clarion Dining’s “In Any Event Catering” page, “The cost of any function is based upon the menu selection, type of service, number of guests and any ‘extras’ involved. Experience has shown that a thorough discussion and understanding of the expenses when the initial arrangements are made is most helpful in achieving a successful event.”
Meal and reception requests must be placed at least 10 business days prior to the event. Refreshment breaks should be requested no later than three business days before the event.
Food and beverage requests must be finalized at least seven working days prior to the event. A 15 percent late booking fee may be charged if any request is made with less than 72 hours’ notice. The fee is put in use if the items requested are not in stock, and/or the current local market price is higher.
Along with requested food and beverage items, Chartwells catering provides service ware such as plates, napkins and cups, and, at an extra cost, tables and linens. Chartwells also offers a cleanup service after the event has concluded.
Chartwells requires a delivery fee for food, beverages and services. The $25 fee applies only to catered functions that cost less than $150 and are hosted outside of the dining facility locations.
Invoices for Chartwells catering services must be paid within 30 days of the event. Chartwells offers catering through Eagle Commons, Gemmell Food Court and Rhoades Café on the Venango campus.
Eagle Commons supplies the widest variety of options including breakfast, lunch, dinner, buffets, hors’ d’oeuvres and snacks.
Gemmell Food Court and Rhoades Café provide a limited range of bread and sandwich platters, hot food trays, baked goods and beverages.
In the future, Chartwells plans on creating Cater Tracker, an online ordering service that groups and organizations can use to place food and beverage requests for events.
Chartwells wants to provide snack items on its catering menu after a recent 20 percent budget cut to Recognized Student Organizations. Snack items would cost less than current menu options.