UI has high hopes for its new food service provider

·4 min read

Jun. 26—The University of Idaho announced last month it has a new dining provider, replacing its longtime partnership with food services giant Sodexo, and heralding a fresh wave of renovations and changes to on-campus dining options.

The UI's new catering and dining vendor, Chartwells Higher Education, is a part of U.K.-based Compass Group — the largest contract food service company in the world. Chartwells' Idaho Eats program at the UI will replace Sodexo's Vandals Dining, according to university officials.

The university will also roll out new meal plans that allow students to take at least some of their allotted weekly meals at other locations on campus rather than using them solely at the campus dining center in its Wallace dormitory complex.

"It just offers a ton of flexibility for students, and it just gives them multiple venues at which they can eat as opposed to just one. So offering up that variety is really important to us," said Cami McClure, assistant vice president for UI auxiliary services.

A May press release promised Idaho Eats will usher in a "from the ground up transformation of the university's dining services," and the slate of planned changes certainly supports the claim.

By the fall, the UI plans to redub The Hub dining center (formerly Bob's Place) in Wallace, with the name "The Eatery," which will include nine newly revamped meal stations. Idaho Eats Spokesperson Kim DiNardo said these new stations will include an allergy-friendly option called G8, featuring menu options that avoid the top eight most common allergens, and a stall offering plant based meals called Rooted, among others.

DiNardo said no matter which station they visit, students can expect meals made from scratch with fresh and often locally sourced ingredients.

"That's our food philosophy — we cook our food from scratch, we menu seasonally and we source responsibly," she said. "Right now, we're working with our purveyors to order produce and vegetables and fruits that are in season, and same during the winter, what can we bring in that we can highlight the season."

Also before fall, Idaho Eats plans to introduce a new specialty burger spot in the Idaho Student Union Building's foodcourt at the heart of campus and completely renovate a space in it's Learning Living Center dormitory complex that previously housed Papa John's Pizza and Joe's Cheesy Grill to offer Mediterannean and late-night bites.

DiNardo said the LLC location will become Pom and Honey, offering mediterannean flavors in the forms of salads, grain bowls and wraps, and a late-night, dine-out-only ghost kitchen which will be called Cravings by Joe. Students will be able to preorder pizzas, milkshakes and other items for pickup from Cravings by Joe from 8 p.m. to midnight through the mobile ordering app Boost.

Meanwhile, DiNardo said the ISUB foodcourt will become home to True Burger, which will serve custom burgers, fries and milkshakes using Vandal Brand Meats, with some of the proceeds sent to fund student priorities.

"It's a burger brand that gives back to students — it's all about student success at the end of the day," DiNardo said. "2 percent of net sales will go back to supporting students, whether that's the Vandal Food Pantry or other student success initiatives."

Perhaps the most significant of these planned changes seeks to install a full-service restaurant in the ISUB — but this won't happen for at least a year.

The restaurant, dubbed Foodery 208, will be situated where Einstein Bros. Bagels currently resides, and will take over additional space in the adjacent "Cedar Grove" study room, with outdoor seating on a nearby patio McClure said.

She said Foodery 208 will offer craft coffee in the morning and pub-like food in the evening with the potential for live entertainment and other diversions. She said the UI is currently exploring the possibility of offering alcoholic beverages at Foodery 208, but stressed plans for the space are still in the early stages. The press release bills the future restaurant space as a "Lively late-night venue with shareable bites, libations and entertainment.

"One of the things that really came through when we were asking what was important to the students and even faculty and staff — they want a restaurant on campus," said Auxiliary Services Spokesman John Kosh. "They want to sit-down restaurant, and this is actually a perfect opportunity — it does not roll out this fall because there's going to be some construction involved, it will roll out next year."

"Our students are adamant that they would really like that space to be a vibrant, hopping, fun place for students to go — not necessarily a study place," added McClure. "That's what the library is for."

Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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