For the first time in its history, Miami University will outsource all of its on-campus dining operations to a partner company.
Miami announced the Aramark Corporation, a large-scale food services provider, will take over June 1. After a search that began in October, Miami selected Aramark over Chartwells, the company that has provided dining services in the Armstrong Student Center since July 2021.
The announcement details plans for more dining options, upgraded digital ordering systems, renovations of Bell Tower Place and King Cafe, and the inclusion of national chain restaurants and local businesses.
David Creamer, Miami’s senior vice president for Finance and Business Services, said the search for a new dining provider started with a goal to improve the quality of Miami dining after a perceived decline during the pandemic.
“When we did student surveys, that came back to us,” Creamer said. “What we're trying to make sure is that our training and other functions are well-developed and that we're putting the best quality product possible in front of our students.”
In the university’s announcement, Creamer noted Miami’s “long and successful history” of providing its own dining services, but said it was ultimately time to tap into the resources of a larger company as most universities do.
“We do believe they'll bring some expertise that we simply can't do as a smaller dining operation,” Creamer said. “We typically do about $50 million of activity. We're working with companies that do $5 to $10 billion.”
The university hopes a partnership with Aramark will help overcome recent challenges faced, especially staffing difficulties. During Chartwells’ contract with the Armstrong dining areas, Chartwells employees would sometimes move to dining halls to supplement those staff.
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Jeff Mills, president of Miami staff’s housing and dining union, said the contract is a move in the right direction.
“The best thing that we can do for our workers is to try to recruit more help up here,” he said. “This should help our workers because everybody's working so short-staffed.”
Mills cited staff attrition as the biggest threat to Miami’s dining operations and the main reason for the Aramark contract.
“If we can't find enough workers, sometimes there's no other choice,” Mills said.
Creamer said Aramark’s help with staffing and recruiting should keep attrition and turnover down, and in turn reduce lines and wait times at all locations while producing a higher quality dining experience.
Mills hopes the recruiting benefits spread to other areas of Miami.
“What I'm hoping is, first and foremost, it can stymie the problem so we can concentrate on hiring for other places,” he said. “I personally am on a mission to try to get as many people to work here as I can.”
Dining employees will have the option to remain employed by Miami or switch to Aramark. Creamer doesn’t anticipate many employees looking to switch because a big part of Aramark’s role is bringing in new workers, and Miami’s retirement benefits will be better. Both will provide equal pay and similar benefits, with different packages to suit different employees’ needs.
Employment opportunities will also extend to former Chartwells employees, and workers will operate together in the same spaces under one operation managed and supplied by Aramark.
A cashier at Emporium who wished to remain anonymous said last Sunday he had not heard about Miami’s partnership with Aramark.
Senior director of Food and Beverage Brent Mason did not respond to requests for comment.
With the transition beginning in just under two months, Creamer said it’s too early to tell how the Aramark partnership will pan out. He’ll be working through the transition with the company over the summer to prepare for the fall semester.
Additional reporting by Asst. Opinion Editor Devin Ankeney.