The University Corporation avoided projected deficit through cuts, Chartwells Higher Education group to rebrand CSUN dining


Shannon Carter

The University Corporation board of directors meeting held via zoom on Oct. 19.

Shannon Carter, Assistant News Editor

The University Corporation held its triannual board of directors meeting on Oct. 19. The meeting addressed the unsteady budget and provided a formal introduction to the new campus dining programs.

TUC Executive Director Rick Evans provided the board an update on the current budget status for the current fiscal year, which has been negatively impacted by the move to online instruction.

The nonprofit corporation provides commercial and administrative services to CSUN, such as managing the campus bookstore, dining venues and distributing the meal plans for residence halls.

Evans said TUC usually sells 1,500 meal plans over the course of a semester but due to the lack of student occupancy and traffic on campus, the company has sold a little over 200 meal plans for the fall semester.

Campus beverage sales have declined and will not garner any profits, and the campus store has suffered a 30% sales drop this fall in comparison to this time last year, according to Evans.

The Matador Food Court in the CSUN Bookstore plaza is cordoned off as the dining locations are closed. The lack of customers was cited as the main reason for the closure. (Chris Torres)

The self-supporting organization has undergone significant changes due to a decline in revenue over the past seven months.

Through massive layoffs, reduced operating costs and outsourcing all campus dining to Chartwells Higher Education Group, the corporation has managed to avoid a $2 million budget deficit.

“Bottom line, we came in better than projection because of the multitude of measures we took, that we took quickly,” Evans said.

Evans said that CSUN would reimburse TUC for refunded meal plans for spring 2020 to absorb costs. The university administration will use a portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act federal stimulus that it received back in March. In addition, the corporation will be reimbursed for any losses accrued to hire and outsource Chartwells Higher Education as the campus’s third-party meal provider.

Evans anticipated that if CSUN reimburses TUC for any losses suffered for both fall 2020 and spring 2021, the company will end the fiscal year with a $60,000 deficit. If there is not enough CARES funding to support TUC for both semesters, the organization will incur a $400,000 loss for the 2020-2021 financial year.

The Matador Food Court in the CSUN Bookstore plaza is closed for the semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Chris Torres)

“Although 2021 presents another challenging year for the corporation, our balance sheet remains strong and our reserves will be able to absorb this one-time deficit,” Evans said.

Chartwells Higher Education Group introduced its management team and brand values to the board. Resident District Manager Omar Galvez presented an operational update to the board on the transition to campus. Galvez said CHE’s primary focus is to maximize space within the dining areas and renovate the current structures over the next year.

Galvez said that another goal for CHE will be to rebrand the current residential dining experience for students on campus. The food management company, which has a focus on wellness and sustainability, will adopt new marketing approaches. “Smile Behind the Mask” will foster engagement between the dining staff and the customers they serve, and other marketing approaches will involve meal memberships, punch cards and dining dollars.

To promote convenience and social distancing measures, CHE will launch a mobile ordering app called Boost, which will allow customers to order ahead, customize options and pick up an order at their convenience.

CHE anticipates that the upcoming rebranding changes will be fully implemented by fall 2021, in anticipation that there will be more students on campus during that time.

As time progresses and the impact of the pandemic eases, Galvez said that CHE would continue to prioritize hiring ex-TUC staff members that were laid off earlier this year. According to Galvez, 90% of the current dining staff are previous TUC employees.

Looking forward, CHE will “refresh” Geronimos by spring 2021 and Matador Mercado by summer of next year, through reorganizing the space and installing new cash registers within the venues. Evans said that CHE will fund these improvements.

“At the end of the day, we’re working with what we have, but that doesn’t mean we have to deliver a mediocre experience,” Galvez said. “I think it’s about being engaged. We truly believe in our food program.”

The next TUC meeting will be held at 3 p.m on March 9, 2021.