When William & Mary announced on May 18 that Aramark would assume the contract for food service beginning July 1, Aramark Director of Hospitality Adam Poling and his team got to work so that they could deliver a best-in-class dining program to the university community.

While fall meal plans began on Aug. 25 for the 5,100 students registered, Aramark needed to be prepared to serve meals beginning July 1 to summer residents, athletes, camps and faculty and staff.

Poling and his team also needed to hire staff, transition or onboard all vendors and suppliers, install new retail locations, develop menus, conduct training programs and establish relationships across campus to ensure his team was ready for the start of the fall semester.

“We have been working very hard all summer to ensure we bring as much as we can to your next dining experience,” Poling said. “We are so proud to feature local partners like Column 15, Town Center Cold Pressed and the Kosher Deli. We look forward to getting to know this community and becoming a trusted partner here at William & Mary.”

Building relationships

Through established relationships with Unite Here, Aramark was able to transition over 230 employees to the new contract. Non-managerial Dining employees employed by the previous contractor were given the opportunity to transition to the new contract and Aramark had unprecedented interest in remaining available positions. While employees have been busy with onboarding, training and preparing the new program, Aramark is also working to establish the Golden Apron program to develop better proactive relationships with students.

Dean of Student Stacey Harris posted on Instagram about her experience with W&M Dining.

Golden Apron will identify team members trained to solicit and respond to student feedback in real time. Golden Apron team members will be available in the dining rooms during each meal and will proactively engage with students to gather feedback and provide necessary solutions should students have questions.

“I’m looking forward to coming back and helping to take care of the students and team members as if they were my own,” said Gloria Brown, a 35-year employee of W&M Dining. “The students are the reason I do my job. I am already focusing on fostering an environment that emphasizes excellent customer service and pride for the William & Mary community. I can’t wait to continue to grow connections on the campus and assist in any capacity to help make this a great year.”

As part of their contractual obligations, Aramark established a meal plan scholarship through Financial Aid for students experiencing sustained financial hardship as well as an emergency fund, administered by W&M’s Heart Fund, to provide temporary meal support for students facing unforeseen circumstances. Aramark has also applied to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits at convenience store locations, a benefit that will be implemented once approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Local procurement remains a high priority for the team as deeper relationships are established with 4P, local small, women-owned or minority-owned  vendors and Williamsburg Farmers Market. 

4P Foods has committed to providing produce and halal-certified poultry from Virginia-based Farmer Focus, and students will be able to use Dining Dollars at the Williamsburg Farmers Market each week. Babylon Farms will also feature prominently in Commons and supply hydroponic vegetables and herbs to the True Balance station and throughout the program. Over the summer, the team held a summit at Slade Farms in Surry, Virginia, to discuss how Aramark could better source from local black, Indigenous and people of color farmers through Carter Farms’ Africulture initiative. 

W&M Dining will also support concessions operations for all major sporting events and work closely with many local nonprofit organizations to help serve the W&M community during games.  

New and improved offerings

Executive Chef Jeremy Williams has been busy developing menus throughout the residential dining program that balance reliability with global, seasonal and familiar flavors such as chicken shawarma, marinated beef brisket, gochujang chicken bao, and vegan thai curry.

Town Center Cold Pressed will bring a full menu to Lodge 1, featuring locally roasted coffee, pressed and blended juices, oatmeal bowls, specialty breakfast sandwiches, loaded bagels and smoothie bowls. Column 15, owned by alumnus James Kroll ’12, Cassidy Eissing and Brittany Wyatt will serve its specialty nitro coffee, among other favorites, in Swem Library. Boehly Café and the Law School Café will also serve Column 15 products in addition to menu items developed by the Aramark retail team.

A person cooks on a skillet
A W&M Dining employee cooks in the Commons. (W&M Dining photo)

GrubHub Ultimate has been installed in Chick-fil-A and Boehly Café to support mobile ordering through the GrubHub app and in-person kiosk ordering to better support timely and accurate order fulfillment. GrubHub Ultimate will support only campus operations and will not be open to the complete GrubHub platform.

Aramark has also purchased two e-trucks and four golf carts for campus deliveries, and has three mobile bottle-filling stations ordered to use for special events such as Homecoming & Reunion Weekend, Commencement or the Day for Admitted Students. The first unit was in operation for move-in day on Aug. 24. This is in addition to campus composting, student sustainability interns and other sustainability efforts led by Sustainability Manager Isabella Chalfant ’22.

True Balance will be offered at both Commons and the Food Hall @ Sadler and feature items made without any of the top nine food allergies. Some of those items include sweet chili pork, baked chipotle orange chicken, vegan jambalaya, gluten-free sandwiches and dairy-free smoothies. 

Senior Noelle Geron said, “As someone with dietary restrictions, who often has limited options in the dining halls, I am super excited for the upcoming changes since I will finally be able to eat meals with my classmates.”

Aramark will also open the university’s first certified kosher kitchen, in Miller Hall’s Boehly Café, offering daily hot entrees along with kosher deli and grab-and-go options. Under the supervision of Hillel Chef Meredith Mills, Boehly employees will receive specialized training to ensure kosher dietary requirements are met while supporting this full-service café.

“Since I started attending William & Mary, there were talks of kosher dining options, but I always thought that it wouldn’t come during my time, always ‘next year.’ But now here we are in 2023 with Boehly Cafe opening up with a Hechsher, it’s really all I could ask for. I know it will offer such valuable options to the Jewish community at W&M,” said W&M Hillel President Sam Rubin ’24.

On Aug. 26, W&M Dining served over 1,600 students at William & Mary’s Block Party in Sadler Center. Attendees enjoyed funnel cake fries, Frito pies and a chocolate pretzel dipping experience plus local food trucks The Bumbling Bee Vegan Junk Food, Curry In A Hurry, and Cast Iron Catering, all who will make regular appearances throughout the semester.

1693 Catering offers an array of options to choose from, whether looking for a plated dinner, quick drop-off or pick-up selections or even snacks and reception-type items. Options are available at catertrax.com.

Dining plan details

Students on All Access meal plans have unlimited access to Commons and the Food Hall @ Sadler and students on a Block meal plan can use their meal swipes. The All Access plan also includes a Drips & Sips subscription that allows unlimited access to fountain and drip beverages at retail locations across campus with a reusable mug. Students on Block meal plans can add a monthly subscription for an additional cost. Dining Dollars can be used at all retail locations or for an $8 door rate at Commons or the Food Hall. 

A full list of updates, including fall hours of operation, can be found at dining.wm.edu.

“The excitement of welcoming students back to campus has provided immense energy and excitement to the dining team this summer,” said Sean Hughes, interim vice president of business affairs. “We have so far been impressed with their thoughtfulness, their attention to detail and the innovations they have added, and we hope our community embraces the changes.”