Students inside Pearson celebrate National Guacamole Day on Thursday, Sept. 16. Photo Courtesy of NCCU Hospitality/Aramark

NCCU welcomes new campus dining provider after 25 years

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On July 1, N.C. Central University entered a new 10 year campus dining partnership with national food and hospitality service vendor Aramark, leaving former provider Sodexo after 25 years.

The change came from proposals given by the two companies earlier in the year that were processed by the university with a selection committee that included students, senior leadership, staff and faculty.

Student input came from the Campus Dining Advisory Committee along with the president of the Student Government Association. In the evaluation process diversity, health, quality, ingredients and safety were all considered.

NCCU’s board of trustees finalized the decision by voting unanimously to approve the new provider in April.

Aramark will be the university’s exclusive catering provider from the W.G. Pearson dining hall to all other food and convenience store locations.

NCCU joins the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University which also use Aramark for campus dining services.

 “It is not uncommon for an institution to do an assessment from time to time to see if there is something better to give their students or campus. It could have been Sodexo or anyone else,” said Akua Matherson, chief financial officer and vice chancellor for Administration & Finance at NCCU.

“Sodexo had been our partner since 1996 and they did a great job but 25 years is a very long time and we wanted to make sure neither the dining partner nor the university got too comfortable. We want what is in the best interest for our students,” Matherson said.

Additional enhancements to the new dining program will include Aramark working with the university’s athletics department for concessions in its facilities, ensuring healthy food options, supplying the campus food pantry and providing timely, prepackaged meals to students in quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19.

“We want to make sure we can provide great meals for the students and a quality dining experience, no matter who the provider is,” said Derrick Magee, interim director of Business and Auxiliary Services at NCCU, who oversees campus dining and was involved in the process. “NCCU is committed to its students having quality food services and Aramark was the one we decided on,” Magee said.

Though there has been learning curves and new adjustments, Magee said the transition has been smooth. New upgrades to Pearson, its kitchen and other food service locations have been put forth as well.

The change will also include a rebranded dining department with a new website and social media called NCCU Hospitality where students and faculty can get access to food menus, hours of operation, meal plans and give feedback.

Students can also apply online to work for Aramark at locations such as Subway, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Pearson. 

“We want the concept of hospitality to drive our identity and influence everything that we do. I think you can already see that coming across in our programs as we seek to have meaningful engagement with students,” said Tiffany Blakney, Aramark director of operations at NCCU.

NCCU Hospitality will also provide the near complete Student Center with three new food locations. Another location is also planned in the undeveloped retail space on Alston Avenue. 

Blakney said the university will experience an incredible amount of transformation and new beginnings in the next year for campus dining.

“I think Aramark and NCCU saw the opportunity to partner and collaborate in designing a dining program that is extraordinarily supportive of the students’ needs and preferences,” Blakney said.

“When you look at all the solutions that need to be provided in campus dining, such as developing meal plans, selecting national brands, catering large functions, and meeting specific student dietary needs, Aramark’s approach is closely aligned with the values and objectives of the university.”

Front-line employees who worked for Sodexo at NCCU also had the option to continue working under Aramark. Matherson said only managerial positions changed due to contractual requirements by the companies.

“Aramark has embraced our partnership 100 percent and this will be an interesting year because of COVID-19 and returning to operations,” Matherson said. “All of us are going to be learning together but they are committed to being flexible and helping us address this unique situation. That is a positive and makes us feel really good about bringing Aramark onto our campus.”

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