Since March, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted nearly every aspect of university life. As a self-sustaining organization, University Residences has been severely impacted, facing close to a $30 million deficit due to lost revenue. We’ve closed dining locations and altered operations substantially. We also put decisions about the future of dining on hold while the university worked to address the enormous logistic and financial challenges of pandemic operations.
Our current contract with Aramark expires in September of 2021. The decision-making environment has changed substantially, however. University Residences faces a large budget deficit, which is expected to worsen as we do not anticipate returning to full residence capacity in 2020-21. Our ability to negotiate a strong new dining contract, or to invest the $1-$1.5 million necessary to convert to self-operations, has been severely impacted.
In addition to the financial situation, there are several other factors constraining our ability to make an effective decision at present. Implementation of any change is limited by remote work requirements and other health and safety regulations. Our capacity to carry out any of these processes while continuing to perform our daily responsibilities is limited by reduced staffing levels in University Residences.
For these reasons, we have concluded that the most responsible decision at this stage is to extend our current contract with Aramark through September of 2023. This extension will support consistent service through the pandemic and give us the opportunity to make a longer-term decision appropriate to the post-pandemic environment, and which will meet the university’s strategic priorities. We stay committed to an open, participative process for making the long-term decision on dining services. At the same time, delaying that decision ensures that is made in a more favorable business and work environment for the University.
In September of 2021, WWU’s 10-year dining services contract with Aramark expires. Over the next year and a half, we have a number of important decisions to make and opportunities to consider as a community. As we move through these processes, this website will be an evolving resource, with definitions, facts and figures, timelines, and guides to the processes and regulations, and other important information.
Self-operated or a new contract?
Self-operated dining services are wholly-owned and operated by the university.
Contracted dining services are managed by an external organization on behalf of the university, under the negotiated terms of a contract.
Both systems are common in college and university settings. In Washington, Western and Evergreen State College are currently contracted services, and UW, WSU, EWU, and CWU are self-operated. Self-operated campuses may also include some smaller contract services—often independent franchises of national chains.
As we think about the future of dining on Western’s campus, we will explore all the options, looking for the best fit for students.
What's the timeline
Feasibility Study commissioned from Envision StrategiesItem complete
Sept. 2020-Aug. 2021
Dining Community Forums on Feasibility StudyItem complete
February 11 - Dining Community ForumItem complete
February 19 - Dining Community ForumItem complete
Sept. - Oct. 2023
September 30 - Current contract expires indicated by three dots
October 1 - Dining transition complete
How can I be involved?
There will be many ways to be part of the process. Right now, in the information gathering phase of the process, attend one of Housing's Dining Community Forums and provide your feedback—the schedules will be posted on this website, as well as being publicized broadly through Western’s media channels.
If you are unable to attend the forum, fill out our Online Feedback Form with your observations, priorities, questions, and ideas.
If you don’t want to fill out the feedback form, talk to your AS VP for Student Services, Carson Brock, or your RHA representative about your perspective.