Aramark at Allegheny

A look at Gators’ new dining experience


Hassan Javed

Students line up to order from the new “Smart Plate” station at McKinley’s Food Court.

Allegheny College entered into a partnership with Aramark Higher Education over the summer and announced their official appointment as the new dining service provider on July 1, ending their previous partnership with Parkhurst dining.
Chief of Staff Kevin Kovalycsik said that the change in dining service providers came as a result of President Hillary Link’s response to community feedback.
“I started my role at Allegheny formally in November 2021 and it was made clear to me from day one that the dining experience at the college was something that I was to put my focus on,” Kovalycsik said. “(Link) met with me and emphasized that the community has consistently demanded a more fulfilling dining experience.”
According to Kovalycsik, Allegheny extensively researched the market for dining service providers and received proposals from many regional, national and international caterers.
“We decided to enter into a partnership with Aramark after carefully considering all our options,” Kovalycsik said. “It became evident that both parties had similar ambitions for the future of dining services at Allegheny.”
The changes in dining have resulted in the renovation of both Brooks Dining Hall and McKinley’s Food Court.
Brooks Hall has seen the induction of more food stations, providing students with extensive options. Physical changes such as a change of decor and theme are also prevalent.
Whereas McKinley’s Food Court has experienced a complete overhaul with all previous food stations being replaced by new additions. Furthermore, the food court has been rebranded and renovated accordingly.
Among the new editions at McKinley’s is the Bento Sushi station.
“Bento is indeed present in many other campuses across the country and at many locations,” Kovalycsik said. “Having established restaurants and franchises become a dining option at Allegheny is something we would be open to experimenting with depending on the wants and needs of the community.”
Kovalycsik maintained that the school administration is fully invested in the dining experience on campus and that he sees it to be one of the most important aspects of his work.
“My experience is in sports and entertainment catering, so I have a lot of experience in working directly with catering and dining services at stadiums and arenas,” Kovalycsik said. “Students will often see me eating meals on campus as I want to be getting feedback from students myself.”
Ryan Crosier, ’24, is hopeful that the changes in dining on campus will be fruitful for students.
“I had become very frustrated with the dining situation towards the end of last semester,” Crosier said. “I am excited about the changes because it makes me feel that the administration cares about the students and the community.”
Crosier also believes that ample time and patience are needed before judgments can be made on the new dining experience.
“I think it would be unfair for students to have one or two meals at Brooks or McKinley’s and make their mind up … that would be biased,” Crosier said. “I think Aramark needs at least one whole semester, if not a year, to get used to our tastes and us to their service.”
Kovalycsik echoed Crosier’s sentiments.
“People also need to understand that we plan to have a long-term partnership with Aramark and so we must give them time to prove their quality which I believe they most certainly will,” Kovalycsik said. “Nobody likes making changes to something as significant as dining services regularly so we are hopeful that Aramark will be able to fulfill our vision and stay with us for the foreseeable future.”
Dawit Kahesay, ’24, said he has already seen improvements in the dining experience at Allegheny.
“I’ve been on campus for a while now due to Resident Advisor training and I have to admit that the food quality has improved,” Kahesay said. “McKinley’s is a more attractive area and has many exciting food options,”
Kahesay added that certain improvements can still be made, specifically in regards to the pricing and overall quality in some locations
“I think the amount of money charged, for example for a Donburi bowl, is not proportionate to the serving size,” Kahesay said. “Brooks’ food has been better but it hasn’t been consistent enough. I do believe that the potential for the food at Brooks is promising.”
Kovalycsik added that students can expect more changes related to dining services in the near and considerable future.
“We want things to change gradually and overtime but effectively at the same time,” Kovalycsik said. “So we plan to introduce small changes consistently with an ambition to highly consider community feedback,”
Kovalycsik revealed that the school is also focusing on increasing community involvement in decision-making when it comes to topics of interest such as dining services.
“We are going to make dining committees more inclusive and wide-ranging along with introducing community scale surveys,” Kovalycsik said. “There will also be suggestion boards present in both dining areas along with managers who will be constantly on the lookout for feedback.”
Kovalycsik said he understands the frustrations that can arise from poor quality of dining services as a student in college. He added that dining is at the core of not only a fulfilling college experience but also integral to every other aspect of life.
“We want students to wake up every day and want to eat their meals rather than needing to eat their meals,” Kovalycsik said. “We want dining to be an attraction for existing and prospective students.”