New food service provider to change campus dining experience


Ruiqi Chen/Daily Senior Staffer

Students sit together on the ground floor of Norris.

Gabby Birenbaum, Assistant Summer Editor

As incoming freshmen meet their peer adviser groups at Allison Hall, Foster-Walker Complex, Sargent Hall and Elder Hall for meals during Wildcat Welcome, they will be the guinea pigs for Compass Group North America, Northwestern’s new food service provider.

Compass, which took over from former providers Sodexo and Aramark July 1, has promised to renovate Northwestern’s dining culture. They plan to change the layouts and concepts of all four dining halls, closing each one in successive 90-day periods, starting with Elder in July and ending with Allison at the end of 2018, to create modernized, transparent spaces, Karl Behrens, Compass’ chief operations officer in the project division, told The Daily in May.

Each dining hall will have a specific ambiance and scheme — Plex will be stocked with ‘micro-restaurants to achieve an urban dining experience, Allison aims to teach students about food, Elder will be serving more street and handheld food, and Sargent’s goal is to have a farm-to-table feel, Behrens said.

In terms of the actual food, one student described the previous offerings as “lacking seasoning, flavor and any compelling reason to be consumed.” Okay, fine, that was me. But, there’s reason to be optimistic about Compass. The University chose Compass due to its superior food quality, among other reasons.

Changes will be made to Norris University Center, a hub of student life and on-campus dining options, as well. Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, holdovers from last year, will remain in the building to satisfy your coffee fix, and Starbucks will even be offering mobile ordering this year, Behrens said.

Otherwise, Compass is introducing entirely new restaurants and a different seating scheme as well, according to Behrens and Jeremy Schenk, Norris’ executive director. The new spots include Budlong Hot Chicken, a Nashville-style chicken restaurant; Wildcat Deli, which will offer sandwiches; Asiana Foodville, an Asian concept; and Juicy Lucy, serving Minneapolis-style cheeseburgers. In addition, MOD pizza will have create-your-own pizza and a salad bar called Roots and Seeds will offer fresh salad ingredients.

All the change will require some inconvenience — each dining hall will be successively closed for 90 days as it undergoes renovation, but ultimately, Behrens said students will be better for it.

“At the end of the day, we just want to have a vibrant space where students can come to this location for more than a meal,” Behrens said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @birenbomb

Read more from the 2018 Orientation Issue here.