Food is essential for life. Some people base their entire lives around the growing, tending, and selling of food to benefit themselves and to live successfully. Some spend their entire life behind a cash register at a small restaurant, constantly dealing with customers and the food that they need to survive. Others spend their time manufacturing and serving food to college campuses full of students who may not be able to cook anything that will not fit into a microwave. These people may be considered lifelines in society, as they are vital for survival and success.
ARAMARK, an award-winning food service, is the primary food provider at Elon University. The company works with over 600 universities and institutions across North America, providing a plethora of food and drink for students to purchase and consume at their leisure.
The company serves a community of over 7,000 people each day, constantly altering strategies and ideas to meet the tastes and preferences of Elon University students, faculty, and visitors. ARAMARK Unit Marketing Manager, Kate Nelson, works extremely closely with Elon University and has spent seven years trying to satisfy the needs of the community.
“I learned about the company while at school at UNCW. It was not until after I was hired that I learned what a large company ARAMARK was and the extent of the company work,” she said, “I spend my time trying to make sure that the campus is running on good food, and is satisfied with the choices that ARAMARK has to offer.”
Elon University thrives on ARAMARK. Whether students are grabbing coffee in between classes or sitting down with friends to enjoy a meal at an on campus dining location, ARAMARK plays a crucial role in the everyday lives of the community. Some of the most popular locations on campus include Acorn Coffee Shop and Octagon Café in the Moseley Student Center.
For such a huge company, ARAMARK began on very small terms. ARAMARK founder Davre Davidson began selling peanuts from the trunk of his Dodge automobile in 1936. Davidson dreamt of lining offices and factories with vending machines, and was soon united with a man with similar dreams, William Fishman, who owned and ran Automatic Merchandising Company in Chicago. The two merged their business ideas and began a company known as Automatic Retailers of America, or ARA. The company began to provide diverse food to new and different businesses and companies that they had made connections with.
The company made great strides in 1968 when it was chosen to serve athletes at the Summer Olympics in Mexico. After many more partnerships and new management, ARA Services changed its name and service philosophy to ARAMARK in 1994. Management realized that their special relationships with businesses had become more than simply partnerships, and began to label them “Unlimited Partnerships,” a term that they still use today.
ARAMARK has continued to thrive over the years, and pursues these “Unlimited Partnerships” all over the country, specifically at Elon University. With three dining halls and over five different retail locations, ARAMARK allows Elon to feed students thousands of pounds of food each day to fuel their bodies and minds. ARAMARK offers students all different types of food, and always contains plenty of vegetarian or vegan options, as well as gluten free options for those with food allergies.
“I usually go to Acorn about three times a day,” sophomore Kimberly Nance laughed, “Once in the morning to wake myself up with some coffee, once after my afternoon class for a sandwich, and once at night to get a cookie and to chat with some of my favorite employees. It feels like home in there.”
Employees agree that they have formed connections with students who visit frequently.
“I have a group of people that I see every day. I’ll point at them and know exactly what they’re going to order,” Acorn Coffee Shop employee Eddie Talley said, “Working here has become something I enjoy. It isn’t just a job anymore.”
ARAMARK has been partners with Elon University for over 50 years, delivering copious amounts of food to campus each day. Elon Dining is a proud partner of the North Carolina 10% Campaign, a program that asks its members to commit to purchasing a minimum of 10% of all food locally. ARAMARK purchases foods from local, regional, and national suppliers who must pass a rigorous evaluation process before partnering with ARAMARK. Food production and menu variety is adjusted each day to meet the needs of the community, and depending on the day or time of the year, ARAMARK adjusts the amount of food provided as students desire certain items more.
“My favorite is definitely the Chick-fil-A in Octagon Café,” freshman Maggie Joest said, “It is so nice to be able to grab my favorite fast food with just a meal swipe. All my friends back home are jealous when I tell them I get waffle fries almost every day.”
With the 2011-2012 school year came much adjustment in Elon Dining Services. ARAMARK introduced a myriad of new meal plans for students to choose from and enjoy. Whereas last year, students were able to use a certain number of meals per week, this year, students residing on campus are required to choose one of the All Access meal plans. These plans allow unlimited dining hall access, and depending on the number of additional meals that students desire, they can purchase seven or 14 additional meals per week to be used at on campus retail locations. Block meal plans are also available for students living in on campus apartments and off campus locations. Students have expressed positive and negative opinions on this system, and ARAMARK encourages this feedback.
“I don’t mind the new meal plans because I can use the block meal plan for anything I want. I can understand why students with the all access plans are frustrated sometimes, it really limits where you can and can’t eat,” sophomore Jeff Ackermann said.
“With any change there is some frustration; In this case specifically everyone had to learn how to utilize the new meal plans,” Nelson said, “Most students enjoy the new All-Access Meal Plans.”
ARAMARK has a myriad of plans and ideas for Elon University in the future. The brand new Global Dining Hall & Retail Café is projected to open in the beginning of 2013 and will be located in the new Global Residential Neighborhood as part of the Moseley Center expansion. The new building will feature a dining hall and food court along with a 4500 square-foot conference room for catered events. The dining hall will feature a local station, an international station, and a home station while the retail café will feature restaurants including an expanded Chick-fil-A.
Although students, faculty, and visitors may have differing opinions when it comes to the food and drink they consume at Elon University, the community revolves around ARAMARK and the food that the company provides. A steady food provider ensues happiness and satisfaction and allows students to succeed both in and out of the classroom.