CulinArt takes over as new food provider

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CulinArt takes over as new food provider

Photo by Julie Kooser

Photo by Julie Kooser

Photo by Julie Kooser

Written By Josh Croup, Editor-in-Chief

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When students left Point Park’s campus for the summer, Aramark, the university’s now-former food service provider, was not far behind. Students have now returned to campus for the fall semester, leaving Aramark in their rearview mirror.

CulinArt Group began as the new official food service provider of Point Park University in May, replacing Aramark, who served as Point Park’s food service provider since 2001.

CulinArt had the chance to transition to the university during the summer months when it made upgrades to the Point Café and renovations to the Lawrence Hall Dining Room. CulinArt also provided catering for multiple summer events, including the Pioneer Experience orientations.

Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Keith Paylo said a change was “necessary and appropriate” for Point Park’s food service provider.

“I’m excited and I believe the university is very excited to be engaged with a new food service company,” Paylo said.

Terry Chavara is the new catering manager and assistant food service director. She previously served on the catering staff at Carnegie Mellon University where CulinArt is the current food service provider.

Chavara said she enjoyed getting to know the Pioneer Ambassadors and other student leaders on campus during the summer who were supportive and provided helpful feedback.

“I have to say, I like students and I like working with students,” Weiss said. “It’s been about a year and a half since I started working on college campuses. I had no idea how much I would like working with college students. I really wasn’t sure how working with students was going to work out for me. I like it a lot.”

Paylo said students he talked to have enjoyed CulinArt’s products early on, but asks students for patience moving forward in the early months.

“I would be lying if I said I’ve heard one complaint,” Paylo said. “It’s been a lot of praise, which I’m very excited about. Is it perfect? Nothing is perfect. I would classify it as a smooth transition. There are going to be hurdles no matter what. From the feedback I’ve personally gotten from students, it has all been very positive.”

The Lawrence Hall Dining Room received a facelift in recent months. According to Chavara, all but one station in the serving area was replaced. The space has new counters, new paint and “very clear signage,” which was a frequent complaint of the dining hall in the past.

The dining hall also features a self-serve bowl station where customers can make rice and noodle bowls, among other selections. Chavara said there are always vegetarian options available in the dining hall and the staff can “always prepare vegan options.”

Chavara said CulinArt plans on renovating and remodeling the Point Café while students are on winter break. She said they intend on removing the wall in the middle of the café to open up the space and create more room for customers.

The Point Café also now serves Coke and Snapple products. Meal exchange is also still an option in the Café during lunch, dinner and late night hours.

Premieres, the café at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, is not scheduled for major renovations or upgrades due to the Playhouse’s future relocation downtown. Premieres will however now have a machine that allows the staff to prepare hot foods including flat breads and hot sandwiches.

Flex dollars are still accepted at the campus Starbucks, but gift cards are currently not accepted due to a “minor glitch” with the point of sale system.

Chavara said customer service is a priority of CulinArt’s. Two of the main complaints the United Student Government received about Armark were quality issues and customer service problems.

According to Chavara, CulinArt retained “all but a couple employees” from Aramark’s staff. Some received promotions and others will continue the duties they performed with Aramark. Chavara said CulinArt is training its employees so they understand the “CulinArt way.” An open door policy with the food service workers has also worked out well so far, she said.

“I think a lot of the staff is excited to come back because they’re getting to do new things and they’re getting educated, which I think a lot of them wanted,” Chavara said. “They were tired of just the same old. Not only are we learning how to do our food, but we’re learning how to interact with the students. It’s a reminder that we’re here for the students. Without them, none of us have jobs. What’s the point?”

Kristy Weiss, the new director of food service, echoed Chavara’s comments in a May interview when CulinArt began its operation.

“The expectation is to have students come back and enjoy our dining services,” Weiss said. “I want to bring in the student population more and interact with them more. I want them to know who we are. Customer service is a priority.”