Washington University in St. Louis is committed to offering its students, faculty and staff high quality, innovative dining options. Two significant service shifts will help the university expand on that mission moving forward.
Bon Appetit, WashU’s long-standing food service partner, has provided meals for the campus community for over 25 years. The university awarded the company a five-year contract that was set to last through June 2026. However, Bon Appetit exercised its right to terminate the contract effective May 18. The university will transition to a new dining partnership for the Bear’s Den, the Danforth University Center, the Village Café, concessions and catering.
“The university immediately issued a request for proposals, and is announcing its intent to contract with Sodexo beginning May 19, 2023,” said Shantay D. Bolton, executive vice chancellor and chief administrative officer. “We know WashU’s premier dining program will remain excellent, with high quality, taste, dietary needs and creative menu design all taken into account.”
WashU’s leadership team, along with 28 campus partners including students, carefully reviewed the proposals. WashU Dining, in partnership with Sodexo, will work through the coming months to establish concepts, menus and operations for each main dining location on the Danforth Campus. This decision will not immediately affect the price of meal plans, as the Board of Trustees sets such fees annually. Meal plans will be reviewed as part of the regular course of business next year.
“The team is confident in Sodexo’s ability to deliver a premier dining program now and in the years to come,” said Jason McClellan, assistant vice chancellor for university services. “We expect the new dining provider will make a commitment to more than 25 locally sourced food resources, including farms and local restaurants, with a goal of 25% local spend in the first year of operations.”
Bon Appetit employees located at WashU will have job placement opportunities with the new provider. The university expects all people currently employed with Bon Appetit to have comparable opportunities with Sodexo under the new partnership, with no loss in pay or gap in benefits.
“It has always been WashU’s intent to retain all employees assigned to the Bon Appetit account,” Bolton said. “They are an important part of our campus community, and we want them to continue their careers with us if they so choose. We will do everything we can to help them through this transition.”
Re-evaluating dining model in support of ‘Here and Next’
With the change in dining management also comes a chance to re-evaluate the university’s satellite locations and deepen its commitment to the St. Louis region. Modeled to mirror the success of Coffeestamp in Hillman Hall, WashU will replicate its community-based dining model at Parkside Café in Schnuck Pavilion, Bytes Café in McKelvey Hall, the Law Café in Anheuser-Busch Hall and Whispers Café in Olin Library. The university has sought proposals from St. Louis-area restaurants and caterers for those locations. Leaders hope to make and announce decisions on these providers during the summer session.
“We are excited to offer St. Louis businesses, particularly local and minority businesses, the opportunity to come to campus and partner with us,” Bolton said. “Welcoming them to WashU, and supporting them as they expand, is a great example of the university’s demonstrated commitment to expanding its supplier diversity mission. Growing our community-based dining model also holds fast to the stated strategic goals of diversity, equity and inclusion as envisioned by the ‘Here and Next’ plan.”
The WashU community can get updates on the transition on the Dining Services webpage.