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New Food Services Contract Announced

After an extensive consultation and request for proposals process, Trent University is partnering with Chartwells Education Dining Services to introduce a number of significant changes in response to student and community priorities for food services.

During consultations with students, faculty, staff, partners and visitors to the University, the key issues identified were food quality, variety and affordability; facilities renewal; stakeholder involvement and financial transparency; supportive human resources planning; and the provider’s contribution to the University’s educational mission and environmental sustainability.

Trent students comprised 50% of the membership of the Food Services Review Committee which was struck to determine these priorities and oversee the process of selecting a new provider. The Committee consulted widely with the Trent community and, with the assistance of an external consultant, developed a Request for Proposals that focused bidders providing solutions to the various issues. Shortlisted bidders visited the campus to make public presentations and to meet with the Committee; then a lead bidder was selected. Further details of the contract were negotiated, and on March 21, 2014, the Trent Board of Governors authorized the President to sign the new contract once finalized.

“I was deeply impressed with this process and how responsive it was to our needs,” said Nona Robinson, the associate vice president students. “All the bidders had interesting ideas, and this made for some long hours for the Committee in making the decision. The student leaders in particular played an essential role in advocating for change. I’m very excited about the new initiatives that are being introduced.”

Food services are integral to student satisfaction and community development, particularly on the Trent Symons campus where each of the four Colleges has a dining hall. “We asked for a lot of different ways for food services to be enhanced, and the new contract addresses all of them,” said Dr. Robinson. “I’m optimistic that we’ll have food outlets at Trent that engage the entire community, that more than meet our students’ needs, and that role model sustainable practices.”

“Our whole team is so excited about joining the Trent community.  Our shared focus on sustainability and local purchasing, building a strong student-focused community and providing healthy, delicious and affordable foodservices are fully aligned.  We look forward to building a strong partnership with Trent and we can’t wait to get started,” said Mike Masse, president of Chartwells.

A summary of changes in the new contract are below.


  • Proposed profit and loss management model for the first two years, switching to a management fee in the third year. Under a profit and loss model, commission will be paid to the university on all meal plan and retail sales. Under a management fee model, Trent will make operational decisions and Chatwells will be paid a fee to implement them.
  • All dining halls will be à la carte, rather than board plan. This will not only increase value for students (no meals will be forfeited if unused) but will also open the College dining halls to the entire Trent community – a key component of our plans to revitalize Colleges
  • Changes to residence meal plan overheads and transfers will increase residence meal plan purchasing power, with no increase in the cost to students.
  • Students will be able to carry over unused residence meal plan money to the following year, encouraging retail purchasing in upper years.
  • There will be a staged capital renovation plan for the dining halls and other food outlets, with a combined investment between Trent and Chartwells of up to $4 million.
  • Chartwells will provide staff training and support, including retention of current staff, ongoing training, rewards plans, professional development funding. Trent will have the right of refusal for managers and will be engaged in their selection. Additionally, there will be a range of student positions.
  • Chartwells has also offered to train student leaders in safe food handling for their own events.
  • Chartwells is providing a 3-level catering menu (value menu, general event menu, and signature menu). Catering will include online ordering, full pricing and nutritional information, and local/seasonal offerings. Catering will be non-exclusive.

Dining halls (dates are when renovations will occur)

  • Champlain (2014): Servery redesigned to open it up; global village hot entrée station, vegetarian station, salad bar, soup station, Thai Express, grab and go, pastries/beverages.
  • Otonabee (2014): Servery redesigned; grill, Italian station, grab and go (made in front of you), soup/beverages, Subway, Tim Horton’s, pastries/beverages.
  • Gzowski (2014): decorative partition wall to enable opening the dining hall to everyone, improved seating to encourage spending time in the dining hall. Downstairs coffee cart will have Starbucks Fair Trade barista service.
  • Lady Eaton (2015): Servery redesigned, open to everyone; in-house pizza oven, Mongolian grill, hot entrée table, salad bar, soup station, grab and go, pastries/beverages.

Stakeholder involvement, education, and transparency

  • An active Trent Food Committee, which will be advisory under profit-and-loss and decision-making under the fee model.
  • Community consultation on renovations, business plan, pricing, sustainability, programming, key performance indicators, and overall priorities.
  • Annual food survey, online and onsite feedback mechanisms focus groups, town hall meetings, mobile website.
  • Fully transparent financial reporting, including an online financial reporting dashboard. Once a management fee is implemented, Trent will receive 8% of food costs as their share of rebates.
  • Educational initiatives around healthy eating, cooking, local food issues, fitness, collaboration with academic programs such as sustainable agriculture & food systems, applied student research, working with Meal Exchange student group, joint initiatives with organizations like Seasoned Spoon, food Ombudsperson (hired by the Trent Central Student Association, with a meal plan provided by Chartwells).
  • Logos and labels for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, local, and other priorities identified by the Food Committee.
  • Complete online and point of sale nutritional information for students.

Quality, affordability, and sustainability

  • “Made-from-scratch” program for non-franchised foods
  • Menu flexibility, and responsiveness to specific requirements such as vegetarian, vegan, allergens/gluten sensitivity, religious restrictions
  • Specific value options for students (e.g. $5 healthy meal in each location, ½ size portion availability).
  • Complete nutritional information both online and at the point of sale
  • Non-exclusive catering in three tiers (student value, general event, and signature) for different cost levels.
    • Back of the house system for managing food cost and waste.
    • Radii of local food sourcing: 50% within the province of Ontario, increasing 2%/year over five years. Included in this: 35% within 250 kms (increasing 2%/year/5 years) and 2% within Kawartha (increasing 2%/year two, 1% annual increase ongoing)
    • High waste reduction/diversion target (initial 60%, with goal to reach 90%).
    • Organic waste dehydrator Commitment to developing standards to enable purchasing food grown by Trent students
    • LEED build standards on renovations
    • Local vendor support, farmer’s market, local food week.
    • Online sustainability dashboard to track key performance indicators

Sample of value-added features

  • Contribution to Trent’s 50th Anniversary fund to build a greenhouse; food systems incubator student project to develop local/on-site campus food production ($5K OTO)
  • “Dine with us” $5 incentive cards to encourage retail sales growth for all off-campus students, all faculty and staff for September 2014
  • Annual: Student experience fund to support student events including Welcome Back Week barbecue, scholarships for Indigenous Studies and Environment/Sustainability, Trent Central Student Association Catering Fund for campus groups, Ombudsperson hired by TCSA, Trent Food Bank contribution

Posted on Monday, March 24, 2014.

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