Chartwells Higher Education Chosen as New Bucknell Dining Provider

April 16, 2024

by Mike Ferlazzo

An artist's rendering of Chartwells Higher Education's possible changes for the Bison Café. Courtesy of Chartwells Higher Education

Bucknell University announced today its intention to award Chartwells Higher Education — a dining vendor that serves over 300 colleges and universities, employing more than 38,000 food service associates — a 10-year contract to enhance the Dining Services program on campus.

Details of the contract are being finalized, with service expected to begin July 1, 2024. All hourly Dining Services staff employed by Parkhurst, the University's current dining vendor, will have the option to retain their positions after the transition at the same hourly rate.

After engaging in a yearlong search process facilitated by an outside consultant, Envision Strategies, the Dining Steering Committee recommended the contract with Chartwells, which met all of the requirements in Bucknell's request for proposals. It was the top choice of students, faculty and staff according to surveys following onsite presentations and tastings from three potential dining providers last month, and was the steering committee's first choice as well.

"Through their proposal and on-campus presentation, Chartwells demonstrated its ability to not only meet the diverse needs and wishes of our students, but also shared their creative vision for an engaged dining experience for the University," says Lisa Keegan, vice president for student enrollment, engagement & success and co-chair of the Dining Steering Committee.

"Dining is a critical part of the student experience. It's important to not only meet our students' nutritional needs, but also to fully integrate dining into the residential educational experience," Keegan adds. "Food is an essential part of learning and building community, and we are excited by Chartwells' ideas for teaching-kitchen opportunities, engaging with the Bucknell Farm, and providing a culinary liaison who will work closely with students in our cultural clubs and organizations."

Committee members said they were impressed by Chartwells' many exciting ideas to reimagine Bucknell's dining program, and are confident in its ability to provide the campus community with top-quality, creative and nutritious meals as well as outstanding service and a commitment to sustainability.


Another artist's rendering of possible changes Chartwells Higher Education may suggest in the Bison Café. Courtesy Chartwells Higher Education

Enhancing Dining Options
Chartwells will partner with Bucknell to enhance the student experience, supporting the growing diversity of the campus community by offering a wide variety of cuisines. Additionally, they will support initiatives that ensure access to these culinary options, which will help the University foster a more equitable dining structure. 

As part of that structure, Chartwells will deliver a variety and diversity of options for the community to engage with on-campus dining. That will include partnerships with local and regional restaurants to provide rotating offerings of diverse cuisines to be represented in residential, retail, academic and catering offerings. Whenever possible, it will use locally sourced food and follow sustainable practices. That includes creating a working partnership with the Bucknell Farm. 

Chartwells will provide nutritious vegan/vegetarian options, honor nine major food allergens, and work with campus chaplains to address kosher and halal needs on campus. It will also partner with University leadership to improve food security on campus, designing meals/options and dining hours that support the needs of all students.

"Chartwells' Bucknell-specific approach on food insecurity and plans to be a collaborative vendor with campus partners seems hopeful in taking the first steps to tackle student demands and needs," says Gabby Diaz '25, a student representative on the Dining Steering Committee.

Chartwells explains how its dining operations will contribute to quality of life on campus in this promotional video from the dining vendor.

Chartwells leadership will work with Bucknell's active student clubs and organizations to assist in the development of diverse and authentic resident, retail, academic and catered menu options that best represent the cultural, ethnic and religious diversity on campus.

"I'm excited to become a part of the Bucknell community and share the joy I have for food and building connections around shared tables," says Prince Guye Johnson, resident district manager, Chartwells Higher Education. "We look forward to speaking with students and creating a customized dining experience that speaks to students' preferences and cultivates relationships with local farms and partners."

Bucknell's current meal plan structure will continue for the time being, but Chartwells will partner with the University to reimagine meal plans by the second year of the contract.