Chartwells Discusses Recent Health Code Violations During McMindes Dining Hall Tour

BY CORIE LYNN

For the last few weeks, discussion on the Fort Hays State campus has revolved around Chartwells, the company that provides dining services for the university.

This discussion first began following an annual state health inspection. The inspection, which took place in the residential dining area of McMindes Cafe, found twelve health code violations.

“A concerned student brought it up to our attention, and then we decided we needed to look further into it,” said Brad DeMers, President of the Student Government Association.

Upon learning about the inspection, the SGA began looking into past inspections of the dining service. Through the Kansas Information Act, the senators were able to view records of previous inspections to find patterns in violations.

They also gathered testimonies from students to understand the specific experiences they had in the cafeteria.

“Then we eventually contacted Chartwells to come in [to a Student Senate meeting] and talk about things that we found,” DeMers said.

The Chartwells staff member who attended the meeting was Senior Director Amila Ramanayake. During this time, he answered questions from senators and audience members concerning what was being done to address the situation.

At present, the dining service is implementing a ten-point plan.

“We look at all of the violations that we’ve done, then we come up with a step by step plan to fix those,” Ramanayake said.

This plan is designed to address each violation. This includes using induction burners to keep food hot during meal times as well as additional training for staff members.

According to Chartwells faculty, staff undergoes training on a regular basis, but the Kansas Health Department has a planned visit to the FHSU campus to review food safety basics with the Chartwells staff members. A follow-up health inspection is then planned for early November.

In an effort to be transparent with their progress, Senior Director Ramanayake offered tours of the McMindes kitchen. Both President DeMers and Legislative Affairs Director Katie Wisely attended the tour.

During this time, the executive officers were shown each kitchen station and learned about the day-to-day operations of the McMindes dining hall.

Both representatives were able to ask questions about how Chartwells stores its food and for how long as well as how to prevent these violations from occurring again.

DeMers and Wisely were also able to view the reports from “Happy or Not?” which is one of the Chartwells’ feedback systems. Guests to the cafeteria are able to use this system as they leave by leaving their rating and comments at the interactive kiosk at the exit.

“I get weekly reports, I get monthly reports, and then I also get daily reports,” Ramanayake said.

These reports are then printed out and posted in the kitchen for staff members to see.

“On average, Chartwells’ requirement is about 75% and above. We are doing way above the normal standard,” Ramanayake said.

The comments left through this system then help staff understand what problems exist and how they need to be addressed.

This led to a discussion of how students could give feedback about their dining experiences. Besides “Happy or Not?” students can also text managers for immediate assistance. Each dining area on campus has this option with the necessary phone number posted on location.

In addition to this, Ramanayake would like to continue to bridge the gap between Chartwells and students.

To do this, he is in the process of setting up a committee of staff and students to focus on on-campus dining. He sees this group as meeting once a month to discuss all that happens within campus dining.

Remanayake, DeMers, and Wisely agreed that accessibility is necessary for students and Chartwells staff to come to an understanding in order to better address concerns.

Remanayake also stated that he will attend SGA meetings monthly in order to check in with students and facilitate this relationship.

“If anybody has something to talk about, I could be there to give my answer,” he said.

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