SFU partners back up with food service provider Chartwells

Chartwells returns after two years to think ahead and give back to students

Chris Ho/The Peak

By: Kitty Cheung, Staff Writer

SFU has announced another partnership with Chartwells, a food service provider. Starting this month, Chartwells will be managing SFU dining spaces for the span of a five-year contract.

As part of Compass Group, a British catering company, Chartwells is taking over from Sodexo Canada to run food service at the Residence Dining Hall, Diamond Alumni Centre, Mackenzie Café, and more.

SFU to implement Chartwells’ Thinking Ahead Giving Back program

Martin Pochurko, SFU’s vice president of finance and administration, says the “game changer” was Chartwells’ Thinking Ahead Giving Back vision. This new vision entails pledges to deliver 1,000,000 meals worldwide over three years, dedicate 10,000 hours of community support for students’ mental and social issues, and create 1,000 jobs to promote student employment.

The Peak reached out to Mark McLaughlin, SFU’s chief commercial services officer of ancillary services, to see how Thinking Ahead Giving Back would be specifically implemented in the SFU community.

“[Chartwells is] supportive of SFU’s fair trade campus program and they have indicated that they plan to increase the use of fair trade products,” wrote McLaughlin. “We should also see more use of local produce and products from BC farms and suppliers.”

“Chartwells recognizes that dietary requirements and food security are issues for students and they are looking at ways to help us address those needs at our Burnaby campus.”

Celebrity chef to join SFU Dining Services

This change includes a partnership with Vikram Vij, SFU alumnus, celebrity chef and former dragon on CBC’s Dragons’ Den. According to McLaughlin, Vij will be guiding menu offerings at Mackenzie Café, assisting with Iron Chef competitions in the Dining Hall, and providing advice to students cooking in the My Pantry area.

SFU and Chartwells’ history

Prior to this partnership, Chartwells had acted as SFU’s main food service provider in the past for several contract terms. SFU accomplished many “firsts” while working with Chartwells, particularly in the five-year contract renewal period of 2012–17. This included opening Canada’s first 24/7 residence dining hall, introducing Canada’s first Fair Trade Starbucks, and being awarded “Fair Trade Campus of the Year” by Fairtrade Canada.

In 2017, SFU chose Sodexo to replace Chartwells as its main food service provider. McLaughlin stated via email that the switch back to Chartwells is due to the SFU Residence expansion plans.

“Now was a good time to assess our food provider service to ensure that we had the best operator in place as we start to design a new dining hall to meet the needs of our growing 24/7 residential dining community, as well as to ensure we are able to offer cuisine that meets the current and future needs of our diverse population.”

Current food service employees will maintain their jobs and benefits

Last time SFU switched food service providers, there were protests over workers’ job security, as food service employees had received termination notices from the university. However, it was later revealed that workers would be staying as part of collective agreement between Sodexo and the dining staff’s labour union, Unite Here Local 40.

“Our guests, faculty, staff and students can expect to see the same familiar faces in our Burnaby dining venues,” McLaughlin wrote when asked how returning to Chartwells would affect current SFU food service employees. “Chartwells has a collective agreement in place with the union representing these staff, and all wages, benefits and seniority were maintained.”