Cal State LA hires new food contractor after claims of poor quality food

Over the winter break, Cal State LA canceled the contract it had with Aramark as a food service provider and contracted Chartwells. The Chartwells dining officially opened Jan. 20 and has foods such as made-to-order omelets for breakfast, Nashville hot chicken, Cajun shrimp, sausage pasta and a vegan station. This will not change meal plan prices for Spring 2023.

Cal State LA students and dining workers previously had complaints about the quality of food and cleanliness of the kitchen when Aramark contracted the food service provider, according to a University Times investigation in October 2022.

Chartwells serves more than 300 college campuses and is already hired at nine other CSU campuses, according to Executive Director of Housing and Residence Life Chad Fehr.

“They have a more expansive menu and plans for improving the dining experience,” a Cal State LA Public Affairs spokesperson said. “As part of their contract, they will give back to our students through contributions to Cal State LA’s food pantry and programs like Swipe Out Hunger. Chartwells also has a track record of being responsive to student feedback.”

Leadership at the nine CSUs, where Chartwells already provide dining services, shared that the company swiftly responded to concerns and ideas brought forward by students and staff. according to the Public Affairs spokesperson.

“[M]any students shared their concerns regarding service, quality of food, and operations at the South Village dining hall,” Fehr said. “To address these concerns, we formed a student food service committee to examine the issues and review our options.” 

The food service committee recommended canceling the Aramark contract, Fehr added.

Former Aramark staff members who worked hourly were given the opportunity to join Chartwells as long as they could pass a background check and meet Chartwells’ standards.

“We are food-forward difference makers, bound together by a desire to feed hungry minds and prepare students for success,” according to Chartwells’ website.

The committee will continue to meet regularly with the new chef and dining manager to ensure a high-quality dining experience, according to Fehr.

The most noticeable differences in the spring semester will be the menu items and food quality. 

“Students and staff will also have input on the menu,” a Public Affairs spokesperson said. “They are even open to making recipes that students provide. The menu will be reviewed and approved by the food service committee and the Housing and Residence Life staff.”

In order to hold new dining providers accountable for claims of poor quality food and improper cleaning that lead to Aramark’s replacement, there are some performance measures in Chartwells’ contract.

Some of these measures include maintaining a food satisfaction rating of 80% or higher, unannounced monthly walk-throughs of food prep areas which are to be done by Housing and Residence Life, multiple opportunities for consumers to provide feedback and continuation of the student food committee.

Financial penalties will be issued to Chartwells if it doesn’t maintain the satisfaction rating of 80%.

“It is very unusual for universities to make a change of this magnitude mid-year,” the Public Affairs spokesperson said. “The committee and multiple administrators campuswide pushed to ensure that this was executed quickly while ensuring that we did our due diligence in reviewing potential food service providers.”

Anyone interested in joining the food service committee can contact Fehr at [email protected].