Western Washington University selects Chartwells Higher Education as its campus dining partner

Transition team will work to get the new vendor ready for fall; will begin campus service on Sept. 1

BELLINGHAM, WA, June 12, 2023 – Western Washington University announced today that it has chosen Chartwells Higher Education as the official food-service provider for its main Bellingham campus, effective Sept. 1, 2023.   

The announcement follows a Request for Proposal (RFP) process that began the previous October to locate a food service company that could provide exceptional quality in residential dining, retail dining and catering services. After a thorough selection process, Chartwells was ultimately chosen for its expertise in the higher education industry, leadership in sustainability and wellness, and mission to engage with and serve students in innovative and meaningful ways.  

“We spent a lot of timing preparing for this RFP process, because we felt we needed to know what the students wanted and hoped for in a dining experience on our campus,” said WWU Executive Director of University Residences Leonard Jones. “We think we got it right in choosing Chartwells, from a sustainability, innovation and service standpoint.” 

Jones and his staff sought feedback in spring 2022 from Western’s campus via a series of focus group sessions with students, staff, and faculty asking what they most wanted to see in terms of a campus dining experience. 

“The valuable input from our students, staff and faculty helped build out a road map in selecting our campus dining partner,” said Jones. 

The students involved in setting the direction of campus dining were not limited to just those in the focus groups; members of the Residence Hall Association, Associated Students, and the student body at large composed part of the RFP committee involved in recommending the Chartwells selection.  

As the campus’ new food service provider, Chartwells will focus on a number of strategic priorities while delivering high-quality, flavorful, and nutritious food options for students, including: 

  • In partnership with the University’s Sustainability Engagement Institute, introduce a reimagined sustainability and wellness program that reflects the culture of the campus and active healthy lifestyle of the university community.  

  • Integrating hyper-local partners into residential and retail dining, prioritizing sourcing from local farmers, artisans, and distributors.  

  • Engaging students and key departments across campus to help shape the dining experience on campus. Chartwells will work closely with Western to ensure all voices are reflected in the programmatic and operational needs of the community in providing later in the night options and celebration of cultural and religious food offerings. 

According to Jones, Chartwells’ commitment to local sourcing, with more than 140 of the company’s already contracted farmers and artisans located in Washington, Oregon and Idaho – and more than 50 within 25 miles of Western’s campus – was a significant deciding factor. 

Western also chose Chartwells because of the company’s push to innovate, from its food and wellness programs to its plans to operate off-hours “virtual restaurants” allowing students to place orders via their phones that are delivered to them on campus via a fleet of small autonomous, wheeled robots, a program which  won an award  at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Joe Fischioni, division president of Chartwells Higher Education, said Chartwells will seek direct feedback from the university  community to create a customized dining experience at Western. 

“Our approach is to align with Western Washington’s values, creating a program that encourages learning, supports socially and economically just and ecologically responsible food systems, while enhancing academic and student life programs,” he said. 

Chartwells and WWU staff will work together on a transition team to get the campus ready for Fall 2023, from setting up menus and wellness programs to hiring opportunities for current dining associates. 

For more information on Chartwells, visit chartwellshighered.com. For Frequently Asked Questions about Western's new dining vendor or the process of the selection, go the WWU/Chartwells FAQ here.

About Western Washington University   

Western Washington University offers more than 200 academic programs on its main campus located in Bellingham, and at additional sites in Anacortes, Bremerton, Everett, Port Angeles and Poulsbo.  

WWU is recognized nationally for its successes, from being named the top master’s-granting institution in the Pacific Northwest for 23 years in a row by U.S. News & World Report, which also named WWU as the of the best public schools in the West for veterans, to its recognition as one of the most sustainable, green campuses in the nation by the Sierra Club.  

WWU is also known for being a top producer of prestigious National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hollings Scholars, Fulbright Scholars, and Peace Corps volunteers, and nationally ranked for graduates who go on to earn research doctorates.  The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Academic Workplace report named Western as one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, winning honors in two categories: teaching environment and tenure clarity and process.