NEWS

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October 6, 2003

Food options change on campus

Taco Bell is out, Subway is in; Starbucks is out, Pura Vida is in; and Einstein's is coming soon. This year, the University's dining facilities will exhibit the first of the changes it will be making over the next several years, as ARAMARK tries to align its services to the demands of the University community.

The changes across campus are the result of a market- research program of interviews, surveys, and on-campus focus groups, called MarketMATCH, conducted by ARAMARK last year. In Hutchinson Commons, focus groups strongly recommended Subway to replace Sub-Maroons, citing its vegetarian and healthy selections.

With a Subway sandwich in her hand, Leslie Bradshaw, a fourth-year in the College, said that the nutrition information from Subway is helpful in keeping her informed of her caloric intake. "I'm a very health-conscious person, so I'm glad," she said, adding that Taco Bell did not provide such information. "If you really want to put together a healthy meal, you have the tools."

While changing some names and particular vendors, ARAMARK has kept the overall range of options similar to that of past years. Miso Noodlebar has replaced The Wok for Asian cuisine, and Tortilla Express has replaced Taco Bell for Mexican food.

The Student Taco Bell Committee worked last year to find an appropriate replacement for Taco Bell. It settled on Tortilla Express, which offers similar prices and Mexican selection.

This switch raises questions about last year's student boycott against Taco Bell for buying tomatoes from a company that allegedly underpays its tomato-pickers. It is unclear to what extent the boycott pressured the change, though the establishment's departure was officially economically motivated.

The change from Starbucks coffee to Pura Vida in the dining halls, which preempts any high-profile student campaign, represents ARAMARK's concern with the University community's environmental awareness. "It was more of a symbolic change," says Erich Geiger, ARAMARK's resident district manager.

But Katie Chiu, a second-year in the College, said that she would be more compelled to buy food from a national chain. "I haven't tried Tortilla Express," she said. "I'm a brand-name kind of person—the brand-names definitely attract me more."

While Starbucks had a few lines of fair trade coffee, Pura Vida's entire line is fair trade. According to its own statement, "100% of Pura Vida's net profits benefit at-risk children in coffee-growing regions of the world." Pura Vida only provides drip coffee, not espresso or other services, so the Maroon Market and C-Shop still provide Java City coffee.

But first-year Liz Roberts commented on the hypocrisy of the new coffee as she ate dinner in Bartlett. "It seems like such a waste to have organic coffee and then throw your cup away every day when you're done," she said.

Einstein's Bagels will open in the C-Shop on the first day of Winter Quarter. It will provide a broader selection than the current fare, which is limited to bagels, donuts and other breakfast-type foods. Einstein's entry, along with Subway, also satisfies the requirement in ARAMARK's contract with the University to serve at least two national brands in the Hutch building.

ARAMARK will also oversee the small convenience store, "Fred's," on the first floor of Shoreland. It will retain the name, but will offer services similar to the Maroon Market in Bartlett, such as coffee and prepackaged foods. It will also accept Flex Dollars, and will be open from 7 p.m. to midnight.

According to Jodi Smith, director of marketing, the focus groups reported that Shoreland residents needed a convenience store in the evening hours as opposed to the morning, when students grab a quick breakfast on campus or in their dorm rooms before class.

This year, the customer satisfaction surveys have moved online, to dining.uchicago.edu.

This round of surveys continues through October 24.