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Gourmet Dining Update || News

OE Student Center 1Monmouth University changed dining services to Gourmet Dining this fall semester with new additions to Magill Commons, the Rebecca Stafford Student Center, and academic buildings.

The main changes include a Dunkin Donuts, renovation to the food court in the Student Center, and new daily food offerings. Chris Ryerson, Resident District Manager of Gourmet Dining, said, “We are the food service partner of Monmouth University for the next ten years, operating all the food and beverage outlets on campus.”

Gourmet Dining claims it is the premier food service company serving NJ. It provides services for 14 campus locations, Monmouth being the latest addition. According to Gourmet Dining, “It operates on-site food service management for educational, corporate, healthcare and long-term care throughout the state.” Gourmet’s motto, according to their website, is “to deliver professional food service programs with a personal touch.”

The University’s contract with Aramark, the previous dining vendor, was up and the students were ready for a change. “We were getting a lot of complaints and we were observing some things that we had been working on to get corrected for some period of time,” said Mary Anne Nagy, Vice President for Student Life.

Monmouth issued a request for a proposal and received responses from four different companies: Aramark, Gourmet Dining, Parkhurst Dining, and Sodexo. “At the end, we made the decision that Gourmet Dining best met what we were looking for and I think what our students have been looking for and frankly deserving for some time,” said Nagy.

Gourmet Dining has brought many new additions to the University. The new Dunkin Donuts, which is located in the back of the Student Center, replaced what was Grille Works.

OE Student Center 2“Monmouth wanted another nationally, well-known franchise brand on campus,” said.

Nagy, “and they’re providing us with that, through Dunkin Donuts.”

“I am definitely happy with Dunkin Donuts because I get Dunkin every day now,” said Emily Marron, a sophomore.

Gourmet Dining also made an aesthetic change to the food court in the Student Center. They brought new concepts in such as Roots, a salad concept; Sono, a Mexican concept; Build Your Own Burger, a grill concept; and Forte, which is a Caldwell based pizzeria. Gourmet kept the relationship with Jersey Mike’s in tact and became a franchisee of their organization. “The Student Center, I’d have to say it’s a transcending experience…It’s the best spot on campus. I’m happy Gourmet Dining is a part of Monmouth now,” said Greg Noack, a sophomore.

Gourmet Dining brought changes of daily food offerings to Magill Commons, as well. They added more variety to many of the core stations. They have people rolling sushi on a daily basis. They also have a rotisserie chicken station, with traditional accompaniments such as mashed potatoes and corn. “We feel that the addition of some new stations and the quality within each of them is the difference from times past,” Ryerson said.

Gourmet Dining is here to enhance the students dining experiences and keeping that experience fresh, rather than always eating the same things, according to Ryerson. The menu cycle is four to six weeks and he feels there is variety in each cycle.

Teresa Viglione, a Gourmet Dining Employee, said, “I think it’s very refreshing, the food is delicious, it’s an upgrade from the previous program and I love it.”

Gourmet Dining is protein-based. “We have a full-time registered dietician as part of our staff,” said Ryerson. Amy Orndorff, the dietician, is here full-time and is a great source to reach out to for any guidance in terms of dietary or food nutrition information. Ryerson said, “Any way that we could push nutritional issues and showcase quality cuisine options that fall in line with those nutritional initiatives is a job well done in our department.”

Gourmet provides options for a variety of students who are vegetarian, vegan, or lactose intolerant. Onnie Coles, a freshman, said, “I love the lactose free ice cream, because I’m lactose intolerant, so it’s awesome.”

Gourmet Dining is involved with student feedback and engaging students and faculty members on their dining experiences. They are working on a survey process and social media for students to share their incites on their dining experience. “Essentially we want to provide the best dining experience possible and in order for us to do that, we have to be very engaged with the student population,” said Ryerson.

The university feeds an average of 3,000 to 5,000 students per day and has a staff upwards of 110 employees, said Ryerson. This change in dining services led to an increase in price of about four to five percent for a meal plan. Nagy said, “Yes, students are paying a little bit more, but the differential is being covered more by the university.” The university is paying Gourmet much more then what the students are paying in meal plan fees, said Nagy.

Gourmet Dining has more additions coming to Monmouth in the future. This summer, Magill Commons, will be gutted down and completely redone. This is going to be a far more involved renovation from the Student Center. “Seating, floors, walls, it’s a very big job, but it’s for the betterment of the university,” said Ryerson. Ryerson said, “We take pride in putting forth the best dining experience by good food, great service, and a warm, comfortable environment.”

PHOTOS COURTESY of Kaitlin Kilian