Chartwells, admin vow to improve problematic dining service

Students+at+Samia+dining+hall.

James Bartlett

Students at Samia dining hall.

Suffolk University is pledging to improve the quality of its new dining service after students shared a slew of complaints, ranging from a lack of vegetarian options to several students getting food poisoning from undercooked chicken. 

The Journal reported last week that Chartwells’ underwhelming start to its run on campus left many students upset and disappointed with the provider’s service. 

In an email sent to Suffolk residential students on Saturday, Dean of Students Ann Coyne and Laura Sander, Suffolk’s senior vice president for finance and administration, vowed to change this. 

“Suffolk students, especially those living in our residence halls, count on the University to provide high quality, safe, and enjoyable food in our dining halls,” Coyne and Sander said in the email. “That is always our standard. This fall, as we worked to partner with our new service provider, we have not consistently met that standard.

“We apologize for the ways in which we have fallen short of our quality commitment to all of you,” they continued. 

Chartwells has already made several changes to address these issues, according to the email. 

These included a full staff-retraining to ensure chicken is being cooked to 170 degrees, full audits of storage areas to verify that different chicken products, the apparent source of the food poisonings, are no longer in Chartwells’ inventory and a review of all internal material procedures, along with asking a health inspector from the City of Boston to conduct inspections inside dining facilities on campus, the email said. 

“While Inspectional Services routinely and randomly inspect food services operations, and all of our operations have been inspected at least once this semester, and all have passed, we asked [the city] to conduct additional inspections following the recent concerns raised by students,” the email said. 

Sargent Hall Café and the Smith Café in the Samia Building both received positive evaluations from the city after they were inspected earlier this month, according to the email. 

Chartwells has added new food options at 1 Court Street and aims to fully open the kitchen there to “provide a full menu of hot items,” the email said. The company also plans to add fresh salads to the Miller Hall Smart Market. 

“There have been instances when certain foods have not been available to meet the dietary needs and preferences of the campus community,” the email said. “The University has stressed to Chartwells the need to provide these options, and the company reports that they are working through supply chain challenges to provide consistently available foods to satisfy the variety of preferences among campus diners.” 

The Smith Hall cafeteria and Smith Café will also stay open until 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday starting Oct. 25, an hour later than before, the email said. 

When asked if the university would terminate its contract with Chartwells early if dining issues persist, Sander said the university “is committed to providing students and others dining on campus with high-quality, fresh and safe food, without exception.

“We will continue to work with Chartwells to ensure that the dining experience for our students and our community is positive,” Sander told The Journal. “We don’t publicly share details of University contracts, but we do hold companies that we partner with to the highest standards.”

A new Dining Services Committee will oversee these changes and address suggestions and feedback about dining services, according to the email. This committee is made up of students and Suffolk administrators, and was created in conjunction with the Student Government Association. 

Assistant Dean of Students Dave DeAngelis explained the goals of the committee in an email to The Journal.

“The committee hopes to solicit feedback, conduct surveys, and recommend improvements to Chartwell’s to help with the transition and serve as the voice of the students for concerns as well as positive feedback on meals and operations,” DeAngelis said.

On Sept. 16, officials from Chartwells came to SGA to discuss student concerns. Suffolk senior Senator Logan Casey said Monday that while some of the concerns shared by students and senators have been addressed, there is still room for improvement.

“Chartwells has made good on a few of (their) points brought up during the Sept. 16 SGA Meeting…but it is clear that there is still much to do,” Casey said. “The Student Government continues to highlight the needs of our students with dietary restrictions, adding more staffing for dining locations and pushing for more sustainable practices in our dining halls.”

Freshman Grace Kane told The Journal last week that she got food poisoning after eating chicken at one of Suffolk’s dining halls this semester. She said she feels better about Chartwells since a plan to address the issues was laid out in the email.

However, Kane also said the email did not address all of students’ concerns with Chartwells. 

“When the [food poisoning] incident happened to me I had no idea who to call,” Kane said. “I think mentioning who to contact if a situation like food poisoning does occur, it will help support students and get them the care they need if issues continue.”

Students with dining concerns were asked to email [email protected] or [email protected]

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