Compass outlines dining changes, including full dine-in seating

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Alanna Reid | Staff Photographer

Pitt’s 29-year streak working with Sodexo ended last July to partner with Compass Group, ushering in new meal plans, food options and dining locations for Pitt students.

By Millicent Watt, Senior Staff Writer

When students walk in The Eatery this fall, they can expect a different scene than last year’s take-out stations and styrofoam containers. New food and more conversation will be the norm, according to a representative from Pitt’s dining contractor. 

Quintin Eason, the vice president of operations at Compass Group, said he anticipates that dining halls will open at full capacity with dine-in seating available this fall. Masks will be required while moving in the facilities, but they can be removed when sitting and eating. He said all University, local, state and federal guidelines will be followed to keep students and staff safe.

As the dining experience is set to return to a more pre-pandemic standard, student leaders and dining officials lay out new food options and dining locations for the fall and its ramifications for students’ stomachs. 

Compass — a British multinational food company — previously introduced some changes after partnering with Pitt last July. This partnership ended Pitt’s 29-year streak with its previous contractor, Sodexo. Many students had mixed feelings about this transition, including meals given in quarantine housing that supposedly didn’t follow students’ dietary restrictions. 

One noticeable change under Compass was meal plan prices. On-campus meal plans under Sodexo had five tiers, with the lowest tier costing $1,550 and the highest costing $2,650. With Compass, meal plans range from $1,620 to $2,730.

Eason said Compass slightly changed its “Unlimited + $50” plan this year to include additional dining dollars. 

Compass is also launching new on-campus dining locations, including PA Taco Co. — which is replacing Taco Bell — and Wicked Pie in the William Pitt Union’s Schenley Cafe. They also added a Smokeland BBQ food truck and Saxby’s Coffee in the Cathedral of Learning and Hillman Library.

Besides dine-in seating, Eason said all on-campus dining locations will offer to-go options in either reusable — through the Choose to Reuse program — or compostable containers. With their Pitt IDs, students can receive their first reusable container free and can exchange dirty containers for a token at the OZZI Choose to Reuse machines located around campus.

Students will also have expanded menus in The Eatery and The Perch Pitt’s two cafeteria-style dining halls — including more “plant-forward dining options, vegan, vegetarian, Kosher and halal options,” Eason said. 

 

He encouraged students to reach out and provide feedback to [email protected], the @pitt.eats Instagram account or their feedback form.

“Pitt and Compass Group look forward to sharing delicious, exciting dining experiences with students as we prepare to transition to increased on-campus operations for the fall semester,” he said.

Danielle Obisie-Orlu, president of the Resident Student Association, said RSA works with Dining Services to create “safe, engaging and experience-rich environments for students” and ensure student feedback is acknowledged.

“In terms of the dining and meal plans, we collaborate with Dining Services to ensure that student feedback and response are incorporated in the core steps of the meal plan creation process in the form of focus groups and committees,” Obisie-Orlu said. 

Obisie-Orlu said RSA also partnered with the Student Government Board to form a joint task force that focuses on making dining spaces more “accessible and sustainable.” 

“It was important to work with other student organizations that are focused on advocacy and sustainability, as that collaboration is key to creating and maintaining a campus culture of student voices mattering and making sure that students feel well represented in the rooms where decisions are being made,” Obisie-Orlu said.

SGB member Daniel Temmallo said the board welcomes and looks forward to Compass Group’s changes for the fall semester.

“We will always be in favor of more diverse options to better accompany every student’s diets, and we look forward to seeing growth in terms of vegan, vegetarian, halal and Kosher options. We also can’t wait to try the new options on campus!” Temmallo said.

As for allergy-friendly options, Katie Miller, a junior communications rhetoric and film and media double major, said she often had difficulty finding food options to accommodate her gluten allergy at The Perch after moving to upper campus last spring. She said she preferred The Eatery’s gluten-free pasta and hamburgers over The Perch’s grilled chicken. 

However, she feels like Compass is a big step up from Sodexo. She especially appreciated Compass adding gluten-free options to more of Pitt’s on-campus restaurants, such as Burrito Bowl. 

“As far as dining dollar locations go, with Sodexo I felt like you’d get smoothies and there was one place you could get a salad but that was pretty much it,” Millier said. “But now, with Compass I feel like they’re really taking that into consideration because there’s more options, like even if I just go to the Burrito Bowl in the Pete, or there’s like a salad place with a bunch of gluten-free options, and they are starting to market on their menu which is really helpful.”

She also felt like the staff was better trained to handle food allergies. One time a worker at The Perch specially made her a gluten-free meal after seeing she didn’t have any options — he even threw in a gluten-free brownie. 

Obisie-Orlu said while adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, RSA’s mission to provide students with positive residential experiences remained constant.

“It has been really important to us that we make sure that the residential experience, whether some of it is virtual or in-person, is one that is positive and allow students to reflect upon their time within the residence halls, and at the University at large, with hope and appreciation,” Obisie-Orlu said.

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