GW Announces Enhancements to Dining Program

University will transition to an open dining plan in fall 2016.

GW Announces Enhancements to Dining Program
March 20, 2016

Following discussions with the George Washington University community, the university will transition to an open dining plan in fall 2016. Students will be able to use all of their dining funds at more than 90 different GWorld partner restaurants and grocery providers.

Additionally, Restaurant Associates will be the university’s new provider for catering and for Mount Vernon Campus dining operations.

“As a package, this provides a really flexible, personalized dining program for students that is responsive to the concerns we heard about variety and availability of affordable options,” said Alicia Knight, senior associate vice president of operations. “With an open dining plan, students with different tastes, preferences and dietary restrictions will have a wide variety of choices. It will give students a dining plan that meets them where they are.”

The new dining program no longer will require a minimum amount to be spent at limited on-campus locations, as was previously required of first-year students. However, use of all dining funds will be restricted to food purchases to be used at dining and grocery locations. In addition to grocery purchases at Whole Foods and Foggy Bottom Grocery, students will also be permitted to spend their dining funds at CVS and 7-Eleven, where many students find low-cost food and grocery items.

Students will also be able to deposit Colonial Cash voluntarily onto their GWorld cards for incidental purchases such as transportation, laundry, printing and other purchases and services. Further details on the new dining program will be available this summer.

The new residence hall at District House will support this open approach to dining, accommodating five new dining venues at the center of the Foggy Bottom campus. This space will offer a variety of menu selections along with “a comfortable dining area along with student space that meets the needs of our students for communal gathering areas,” said Nancy Haaga, managing director of Campus Support Services.

Potential dining venues for District House are currently under selection and are scheduled to open at the start of the fall 2016 semester.

Restaurant Associates also will support the new dining program. Restaurant Associates manages public eateries at numerous Washington, D.C., landmarks, including the U.S. Senate, the Kennedy Center and several museums within the Smithsonian Institution along with dining venues at the Culinary Institute of America, Harvard University and Princeton University. Following an extensive assessment of university community feedback and a competitive bid process, it was selected to replace GW’s current provider, Sodexo. The transition will take place on August 1.

The Division of Operations will work closely with both companies to help current Sodexo hourly associates transition to the new management team and to ensure that all student, staff and other client catering needs are met during the transition period, Ms. Haaga said. Restaurant Associates estimates a reduction of fewer than 10 staff at GW and will provide support to any employees who are not rehired, including placement with other Restaurant Associates accounts, where possible. Sodexo will also assist hourly associates with employment opportunities within its client sites in and around D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

“It’s important to us that the current Sodexo employees understand the transition and have a successful transition—many of these workers have served the GW community for a long time,” Ms. Haaga said.

J Street, on the first floor of the Marvin Center, will close after the upcoming spring semester and will undergo renovation to create community spaces and offer a more modest dining option. The dining area in Shenkman Hall also will receive physical upgrades over the summer to create “a more warm and inviting space,” said Ms. Knight.

The university is exploring mobile and interactive possibilities for the future of the dining program, including an online platform offering students the ability to search partner restaurants based upon cuisine, location, menu options, and pricing.

“We want to put as much flexibility and freedom of choice as possible in the hands of our students,” Ms. Haaga said. “We have a tremendous and diverse variety of food options on campus and nearby, everything from delivery to grocery to fine dining. We want to ensure students’ ability to spend every dollar in the manner that best meets their individual dining needs and preferences.”

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