Letter to the Editor: Dining Services values community voices

A series of articles has been published by The Mercury this year about the university’s food service contractor, Chartwells. We value this input, and we have consistently encouraged dialogue with students and continue to work diligently to improve the dining experience for everyone on campus.

We may not always get it exactly right when conducting our daily business; however, we respond quickly when issues are reported. I wanted to let the campus community know some actions we have taken behind the scenes, which were not included in The Mercury’s articles, even as we continue to serve our thousands of customers each week.

As director of dining and retail for UTD Auxiliary Services, I am responsible for monitoring the performance of each service contract. Chartwells has been our food service contractor for a decade, and I have worked with them to brand “UTD Dining Services.” Chartwells — part of Compass Group, the world’s largest noncommercial contract management company — is our operator, but UTD Dining is all of us. It is a partnership.

In my 10 years with UTD, we have grown from just a handful of dining options to over 85,000 square feet of dining space on campus. We have been named “Innovator of the Year” by Food Management Magazine. Dining Hall West is Green Restaurant Certified, the highest score for a college or university in Texas. We operate a monthly Pop-Up Farmer’s Market and a Teaching Kitchen. If we’ve wanted to try a new innovative product or service as a university, Chartwells has always been game. 

Our facilities are impressive, but what matters most are the people who work for UTD Dining Services: 108 part-time and 159 full-time associates, 108 student associates and 17 managers — not to mention our award-winning chefs.

UTD Dining Services is committed to its mission of enhancing the university experience by providing quality food and service to students, faculty, staff and campus visitors. Feedback from the campus helps us do our job better. We welcome it.

Any student who has a less-than-satisfactory dining experience can immediately seek out an on-site manager who can quickly resolve any issues. This semester, UTD Dining Services also launched the ChatBack texting platform (text 972-808-5028) for students to immediately contact a dining staff member with a concern, feedback or suggestions.

UTD Dining Services also upholds the university’s commitment to providing a respectful environment for all students and for our student workers, many of whom are international. Students who feel they have witnessed misconduct, harassment or discrimination should not feel unsure or hesitant to report it immediately to an on-site manager and to the university’s Title IX office. We want to make sure our student workers have the necessary tools to be happy and successful at work and in school, and will make sure we communicate at every training opportunity that any level of harassment will not be tolerated.

Chartwells student employees also have access to a private and confidential SpeakUp Hotline where they can report situations they may feel to be unsafe, unethical or illegal, and which they may be uncomfortable discussing in-person with their onsite management or Human Resources. Dining employees are also encouraged to take the annual employee engagement survey.

We also continue to actively reach out to all students for feedback on their dining experiences. Students are encouraged to attend our monthly food advisory meetings on the last Tuesday of each month (as listed on the Comet Calendar), participate in Foodie Feedback on the dining website, attend a teaching kitchen and sign up for one of our future focus groups.

Chartwells and UTD Auxiliary Services are held to the highest level of accountability. Our operations are regularly inspected by the city of Richardson. Our most recent health inspection reports revealed no food safety issues and received outstanding scores ranging from 95 to 98. Chartwells also outsources a third-party company to conduct a quarterly comprehensive onsite quality assurance visit.

Texas Department of State Health Services requires food service workers handling food be certified through a training course accredited by the American National Standards Institute or Department of State Health Services. Chartwells pays for the exam and for the employee’s time to take the exam. As of this date, Chartwells is 100% compliant.

UTD Dining Services remains committed to its mission of providing quality food, products and service that enhance the student, faculty and staff campus experience.  We welcome hearing from students and encourage you to provide immediate and direct feedback so we can respond to any issues most effectively.

Carrie Chutes-Charley is the director of dining and retail at UTD Auxiliary Services.

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