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Chartwells' plans to bring new franchises to CMU, invest in renovations


(Courtesy Photo | Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers) 

The newly-forged agreement between Central Michigan University and Chartwells will result in a complete makeover for on-campus dining — But it extends beyond just residential restaurants.

Chartwells is bringing in new franchises and replacing many on-campus eateries. Cal Seelye, executive director of auxiliary services, said students can expect a variety of new restaurants and cafés.

Seelye said that the following restaurants are expected to come to CMU:

  • Slim Chickens, a national franchise originating from Arkansas that focuses on chicken meals.
  • Freddy’s Frozen Custards and Steakburgers, another national franchise that only has a couple locations in Michigan. They serve custards, burgers and hot dogs.
  • Paper Lantern, a Chartwells-branded Asian eatery.
  • Shakesmart, a Chartwells-branded milkshake and smoothie restaurant. 

The Down Under Food Court may not be what students remembered next Fall. Chartwell's will be bringing in new franchises to Central Michigan University and replacing most of the Down Under Food Court. The only franchises currently at CMU that won’t be touched are Einstein’s Bagels, Which Wich and Starbuck’s. Though, two local eateries will be introduced.

Seelye said some franchises such as Einstein’s Bagels, Which Wich and Starbuck’s will stay on campus. Advanced Fresh Concepts (AFC) Sushi will replace D-Lish at the Market on South Campus.

Unnamed Eateries

There are plenty more unnamed eateries still in the negotiation stages, Seelye said.

Seelye said the Health Professions Building will have a Chartwells-brand tea and coffee shop replacing CMBrew.

CMU is looking to put a coffee shop in South Campus, Seelye said.

"(Einstein's Bagels) provides coffee service, but it's not the fun drinks that everybody likes," he said.

There will also be a restaurant in the Down Under with a "Mexican concept," but based on student choice, he said.

"(It) is a concept that will vary and change based upon how (polled students) tell us what direction they'd like us to go," Seelye said.

National and Chartwells' franchises aren't the only retail places coming to CMU. Seelye said two local franchises are also coming but have not been announced yet. Seelye confirmed one will be a local coffee café that will replace Java City. The other will be a pizza place.

"They've been decided, but they're being negotiated (still)," he said.

Unlike CMU, Eastern Michigan University serves a Chick-fil-A through Chartwells. CMU chose to go with a different Southern-favorite chicken venue, Slim Chickens.

“It is a chicken venue without, quite frankly, the negative stigma of a Chick-fil-A,” Seelye said. "It’ll likely be the first or second in Michigan.”

According to the Food Services Agreement between CMU and Chartwells, Chartwells will be the "preferred campus catering provider." 

"CMU grants to Chartwells, as an independent contractor, the exclusive right to provide and manage CMU's residential and retail food service program," the contract read.

There are two exceptions. One exception is when the local Mount Pleasant business, Max & Emily's, caters for CMU athletics. The other is if Chartwells refuses to cater an event which would allow the university to hire a third-party.

CMU will not be the first university Chartwells catered for. Eastern Michigan University recently switched over to Chartwells.

Greg Millard, manager of Eastern Eateries at EMU, said the franchises gained a lot more popularity after the university entered a deal with Chartwells.

“There was an inflow of a lot of external money,” Millard said. “They did a lot of the renovations that we wanted to do, but we never had the money in the budget to be able to.”

CMU chose Chartwells because they would invest in the university, Seelye said. They were offering to invest “14.5 million dollars" which funded all the new franchises, shops and renovations.

"We knew we had a Down Under Food Court that wasn't really popular with students," Seelye said.

The investment will go into restoring the dining halls and Down Under Food Court before the 2021-2022 academic year to include the Chartwells touch, Seelye said. 

The renovations will not affect students staying at CMU during the summer semester from being able to receive meals from the dining halls, he said.

Merrill Residential Restaurant is expected to have a major facelift in the summer 2022. Robinson Residential Restaurant will also receive a major renovation possibly 2023 or 2024, said Seelye.

Meal plans are set to increase the following year with an “incremental change that would have come about whether it was Aramark or Chartwells,” Seelye said.

“That’s just because food costs more, transportation costs more, employees cost more,” he said.

In two years, CMU will be restructuring its meal plan, Seelye said. The Board of Trustees is looking into using meal exchanges (swipes for retail meals).