William & Mary announced today its intention to award a contract to Aramark that will span 10 years and enhance the food service program on campus. The contract will take effect on July 1, 2023, and includes operation of residential and retail dining, full-service catering and campus concession venues.
“This new partnership is an exciting step in food service at William & Mary and will ensure our community has a best-in-class dining program,” said Jackson Mathews, executive director of W&M’s Auxiliary Services, which oversees the dining contract. “Aramark will offer a program built on excellence in every way, featuring consistent quality and innovation to meet the modern needs of students, faculty and staff.”
Thursday’s announcement continues a university-wide commitment to enhancing the student experience at W&M. Last year, William & Mary unveiled a long-term comprehensive plan to modernize and revitalize its residential and dining facilities, and to advance the integration of living and learning on campus.
The re-imagined dining program will prioritize locally sourced products and scratch-made meals by partnering with area farms and suppliers. A new, expanded partnership with Williamsburg Farmers Market will allow students to use their Dining Dollars at weekly markets on Duke of Gloucester Street. Aramark is also working with W&M to advance new measures to prevent and address food insecurity and further support the university’s affordability commitment.
Retail dining will emphasize local partnerships and rotating options. Column 15, owned by William & Mary alumni, will be the coffee vendor at campus cafés, while GrubHub will manage mobile ordering. Chick-fil-A in Tribe Square and Domino’s have also recommitted to accept Dining Dollars.
Both Commons Dining Hall and the Food Hall @ Sadler will see expanded menu choices, including expanded vegan and vegetarian options, and a program more responsive to students through proactive student engagement. Customized options will be widely expanded at each station to ensure that students are in control of their dining experience. Food stations will feature local chefs and menus from their restaurants. A dietitian will also be on campus full-time for students seeking support with special dietary needs or guidance on general dietary education.
“It was apparent from Aramark’s proposal that they are invested in making changes to William & Mary’s dining program,” said newly elected Student Assembly Vice President and Review Committee Member Taylor Fox ’24. “While reviewing the proposals, I considered my plant-based, Jewish and Muslim classmates, my classmates with allergens, and my classmates who are looking for a high-quality dining experience. Their concerns and dining experiences informed and guided my decision-making process.
“We are all curious about our food and are open to new ideas, flavors, and experiences, but still expect our comfort foods to be consistently well done,” Fox added. “With this new program, I look forward to us all finding something we want while enjoying a meal together as a community.” Lastly, Fox stated, “Student Assembly is thankful to have a voice in this complex decision-making process as we were able to elevate student concerns and hear solutions through this new provider.”
Aramark Collegiate Hospitality’s Executive Director of Hospitality Adam Poling will lead the new partnership. As the senior on-campus leader within Dining, Poling will guide both the day-to-day operations and the strategic vision of the new W&M Dining. “We have built a dynamic program for William & Mary and this team is excited to get to work. As a former long-term Virginia resident, my wife and I started our family here and joining this community is a dream come true for us. We can’t wait to introduce the campus community to the new W&M Dining.”
William & Mary Dining employees are employed directly by the contractor and current non-managerial staff will be given the opportunity to transition to the new contract. In Spring 2023, W&M Dining employees voted to unionize with Unite Here, and with the announcement of the Notice of Intent, Aramark and Unite Here can leverage their strong existing relationship to ensure a smooth transition.
Aramark was selected after an open solicitation process that requested proposals from eligible food service providers. Proposals were reviewed by a committee composed of student leaders, administrators, staff members, family members and representatives from multiple W&M departments. William & Mary Auxiliary Services serves as the contract administrator and provides university oversight to the operation of the contract.
“Aramark submitted a great proposal that closely aligns with William & Mary’s vision and commitment to quality,” said Sean Hughes, interim associate vice president of business services & organizational excellence. “Adam and his team are strong partners. We look forward to introducing them to our campus community. Aramark and Auxiliary Services will work closely to implement a program that will exceed expectations both when students return to campus, and for the time to come.”
Freshmen and sophomores are enrolled in the All Access meal plan as part of their campus residency, which allows anytime access to residential dining facilities and $400 Dining Dollars. Introduced in 2021, the All Access meal plan provides flexibility in Commons and the Food Hall @ Sadler for students to choose a meal schedule that works best for their needs. Meal plans are required for all undergraduate residential students and additional meal plan options are available, depending on class year or residence location. For complete meal plan information, visit W&M Dining Services.
The meal plan structure and rates are developed and managed by William & Mary, and the food service vendor is responsible for operating within the provided budget. After maintaining flat rates for the 2022-23 school year, the W&M Board of Visitors Executive Committee Thursday approved the new recommended rate of $2,885 per semester for the All Access plan, an increase of $262. The new rate reflects the university’s commitment to expand and enhance dining services, as well as the reality of increases in food and labor expenses. With Thursday’s action, W&M’s dining fee remains the second-lowest among all public universities in Virginia.
“We know significant upgrades to the food service program are required to meet the expectations of our community and our goal is to limit rates to what is absolutely necessary to deliver on our commitment of excellence” said Jackie Ferree, interim chief operating officer. “We are excited about this new era of dining at William & Mary, the new comprehensive program and the many options it will provide members of our community.”
Ongoing updates will be posted on dining2023.wm.edu and on social media (@wmauxiliaries) throughout the summer to highlight changes and introduce team members. Students will also receive regular emails about what to expect when they return to campus.
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