Behind the Scenes of the New UH Dining Experience

Chartwells Brings New Options, Expanded Service and Sustainability to Campus Dining

Creative new culinary, technological and sustainability–related enhancements have arrived at University of Houston dining facilities. New dining service provider, Chartwells Higher Education, has implemented exciting changes at the more than 30 on-campus food locations including Cougar Woods and Moody Towers Dining Commons, the two largest dining halls on campus.

The Moody Towers Dining Commons will now be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week offering large, comfortable learning and social space and a full menu. Chartwells’ new Dine on Campus app provides daily menus, nutrition information and dining facility hours of operation. Both dining commons will also have a nutrition kiosk set up to view nutrition information. In addition, mobile ordering is now available with the Boost app for numerous retail dining locations across campus. 

 Other new UH Dining features include:

  • Two customized hydroponic grow towers will be installed soon at Cougar Woods that will produce 144 pounds of salad and fresh herbs, including oregano and cilantro, every month. Hydroponic systems often require fewer resources and reduce waste and pollution.
  • More plant-based dishes with more vegan and vegetarian options.
  • Expanded halal station at Moody Towers provides greater variety that reflects the diverse international student population. A vertical rotisserie will offer lamb, chicken and beef shawarma.
  • G8 allergen free station at Moody Towers will feature gluten-free menu items prepared without the top eight allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish, milk, wheat and soy.
  • Cougar Woods will be completely free of nuts or nut-based products.
  • A farmer’s market will open on campus in September with local produce, kombucha, olive oils, fresh breads, and other local products.

“We constantly challenge ourselves as leaders to move the needle in support of students and our entire Cougar community,” said Emily Messa, associate vice chancellor and associate vice president for administration. “We’re thrilled to take our food service program to the next level.”

Both Cougar Woods and Moody Towers Dining Commons will be converted into zero-waste-to-landfill certified dining facilities. Food waste will be collected and turned into compost before being sold back to the Houston community as topsoil.

In addition, UH partners with the Food Recovery Network, a national student-led organization, to help recover discarded but still usable food and deliver it to local food banks. UH also partners with Campus Kitchen, a student-run food recovery program operated by Honors College students. In an effort to become more environmentally responsible, Chartwells and UH have set a goal of achieving green restaurant certification by 2020.

“Our UH sustainability team is working closely with Chartwells to ensure that they’re on the cutting edge of sustainability,” said Neil Hart, executive director of UH auxiliary services. “If it’s important to our students, then it’s important to us.”

Chartwells will keep students informed about ongoing “green” efforts by reporting the amount of food waste diverted from landfills, water savings, and energy reductions. Students will have the opportunity to provide feedback on their dining experience in the form of guest surveys.

“Food is extremely personal and political. College students are very interested in where their food comes from and how it’s prepared,” said David Riddle, Chartwells resident district manager. “We start with quality ingredients that are sourced humanely and have a lot of integrity. Then we follow through with a cycle of sustainability. I think students appreciate that and increasingly expect it.”

Other changes include unlimited plans, which all come with unlimited meals for the semester. Also, in an effort to provide a more sustainable dining program, to go boxes will no longer be offered. For more information visit UH Dining Services.