Beginning this fall, Harding has a new food distributor on campus after its decades-long contract with Aramark ended in the spring. Tammy Hall, vice president for finance and chief financial officer, officially announced Chartwells as Harding’s new vendor in May. According to Senior Director of Dining Derek Good, the University was ready to consider a new vendor for the Harding community after 33 years with Aramark.
Chartwells’s arrival brought several new food options and upgrades: the student center received updates, including Tu Taco in place of Taco Bell, and a Sally the Robot vending machine; the Mabee Business Building now has the Market at Mabee, offering wraps and sandwiches; Midnight Oil replaced Java City in the Brackett Library, where students can now use Dining Dollars to purchase coffee; Create, which offers fresh salads and smoothies, resides in the Farrar building cafe. Chartwells also increased Panda Express’s days of operation to a full week. Additionally, students can now use their student meal plans to buy dumplings from the Slader’s Alaskan Dumpling food truck near the Ganus Activities Complex. Finally, the cafeteria underwent its second rebrand in the past year, now being called the Range Food Hall. An update to Harding’s dining plan came along with Chartwells, providing more Dining Dollars with its meal exchanges. Students are now allowed to use five meal swipes per week after 2 p.m. in the student center.
COVID-19 has forced Chartwells to alter its dining service operation in a way that prevents the spread of the virus, resulting in slower food lines. Assistant Vice President of Finance —and member of the new vendor selection committee — Tim Jones said he understood the challenges Chartwells faced due to the pandemic.
“This is not the way [Chartwells] prefer to do food,” Jones said. “This isn’t the way they presented it to [the selection committee], but they don’t have any choice at this point.”
Many students expressed appreciation regarding the vendor change, including senior Jackson Duncan.
“The way Chartwells uses your dining plan and your swipes is much more student-friendly,” Duncan said.
Although many approved Chartwells’s dining plan, not everyone believed that the food distributor significantly altered Harding’s food selection.
“I feel like they made a big deal out of [the vendor change], and it didn’t really change that much,” sophomore Cooper Richardson said. “It’s mostly the same options as last year, and it tastes the same.”
Although otherwise satisfied by the updates, Duncan and Richardson both said they wished Harding’s dining service still included “Late-Night Caf,” a late dinner option introduced by Aramark last semester.
“They have to bring [Late-Night Caf] back,” Richardson said. “That was the best thing to ever happen to the Caf. Ever.”