New Sodexo contract prompts changes in campus dining

(illustration by Walter Martinez)

Mason’s next big project targets its dining options and promises many changes for the near future.

Mason Dining signed a new contract with Sodexo on Sept. 25 to replace the old contract that was set to expire in 2014.

Mason picked Sodexo as their continued dining provider after a lengthy competitive bid process in the spring.

“Sodexo listened to students, proposed helpful suggestions and overall offered a better retail program and financial package,” said Mark Kraner, Executive Director of Campus Retail and Auxiliary Enterprises.

The new dining contract, which includes several changes to Mason’s dining options, is a $400 million contract that will be in place for 10 years. The dining team has scheduled reno­vations to begin at the start of winter break this year.

“The spring will be exciting as the program starts,” Kraner said

The east side of the Johnson Center, where the computer store, Freshens, Hot Spot and Sprouts are currently located, will undergo the first set of renovations.

The space the computer store currently occupies will be converted into a Panera, which is scheduled to open for the fall 2014 semester.

The Panera will be replacing La Pat. There are tentative plans to create an outdoor seating patio outside of the Panera.

The computer store will move to the opposite end of the Johnson Center where the TV lounge is currently located.

The area occupied by Freshens, Sprouts and Hot Spot will be converted into more seating options to accommodate the large crowds that gather in the Johnson Center during the day.

A new convenience store will open in the space that holds the art gallery, and the current store on the opposite side of the building will close.

Sprouts will move temporarily across the building to the Simply-to-Go kiosk.

Freshens will reopen inside of the new convenience store and Hot Spot will close for good.

These renovations will continue into the spring semester and are projected to be completed by the fall.

Winter break renovations will also take place on the bottom level of the Johnson Center.

Jazzman’s coffee shop, currently located on the bottom level, will be converted to a Starbucks, projected to open by spring or summer of 2014.

“This is the 18-month forecast. Additional places may morph over the years,” Kraner said.

Further renovations are planned for 2015, which include renovating the dining options on the west side of the Johnson Center and adding another outdoor patio.

Mason is currently discussing bringing a Chipotle to the Johnson Center. However, no agreement has yet been formed.

In a recent survey among Mason students, Panera was ranked as the most preferred restaurant and Chipotle was ranked second. With the plans for Panera settled, Chipotle is next on the list.

Changes for the rest of the west side of the Johnson Center are still in the works. According to Kraner, Sub Connection and IndAroma will stay and Burger King will receive an upgrade.

The auxiliary team is currently looking at other options to possibly replace Mein Bowl, including a modern Asian-inspired option.

The team also plans to have Red, Hot and Blue replace Original Burger in the Hub, which will open more space for the possibility of another new option. Work has also begun on a second dining hall.

The area that formerly housed Ike’s in Presidents Park is under renovation to become a Southside-style dining hall that will seat 375 people.

The new dining plan will also change meal plans starting the fall 2014 semester.

These plans will introduce “Anytime Dining,” which allows students to swipe into a dining hall once for the entire day, after which they are free to come and go as they please.

A point system will be used for students to access food from dining facilities other than the dining halls.

Current students will be able to keep the old version of the meal plan. Incoming freshman for fall 2014 will be the first to utilize the new plan.

The plan for this sizeable dining update has been in the works for approximately two years.

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