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Contract signed to overhaul Swansea University catering in 10 year £58m deal

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Chartwells Universities has signed a 10-year agreement valued at £58m to overhaul the catering facilities at Swansea University with what the company describes as a ‘bold new operating model’ focused around ‘ultimate convenience’ that will provide a number of job opportunities and services for the local community.

The company describes the contract, awarded following an extensive competitive dialogue process, as representing a “fundamental step change in university catering”, driven by Chartwells Universities’ desire to “innovate its offer to meet the ever-changing wants and needs of students”.

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The new operating model, which was informed by an extensive research project to understand how the behaviours of Gen Z consumers have evolved through the pandemic, is the culmination of a significant period of development.

The agreement with Swansea University, which starts in January 2022, provides a blend of Chartwells Universities’ own brands, such as Hollo Pollo, Bamboo, and Liberty Grill, alongside a number of high street favourites, including Subway, Greggs, and Tortilla, which will operate under franchise agreements. All the brands will be available for delivery to the local community through partnerships with third party delivery applications.

The contract is supported by Compass Cymru, which provides a dedicated framework for sharing support and best practice across contracts in Wales, as well as championing Welsh producers.

Jane Byrd, Managing Director of Compass Cymru, said: “This contract is a great addition to our Welsh portfolio, and reflective of the innovation that is going on across the country. Not only does the new food and beverage offer create a point of difference for Swansea University, but, crucially, it provides opportunities and services for the local community.”

Kerry Ford, Managing Director, Chartwells Universities said: “This agreement is the culmination of a significant period of development that we believe will fundamentally change the way students view and engage with the food and beverage offer across Universities. Every element of the offer is deep-rooted in insight and has been specifically moulded around the wants and needs of students.

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“We’re passionate about providing a fantastic experience to support students’ time at university, but also investing in the communities we operate. This model allows us to provide employment and career opportunities, while also enriching the delivery options available to the surrounding community around campus.”

Bay Campus ‘Social Hideaway’

Ben Lucas, Associate Director of Commercial Services at Swansea University, said: “The bid from Chartwells Universities really stood out due to its truly innovative format. Swansea University not only offers outstanding learning opportunities, but it also delivers outside of the classroom, attracting prospective students from across the country, bringing opportunities for local people and businesses.

“Convenience, quality and value are clearly incredibly important to our students, but, what really stood out in the approach was the additional added value, educational and CSR initiatives, such as the digital cookery classes, regional procurement and cook-at-home delivery boxes, which will enrich the overall student experience and provide guidance and support during their time in Swansea.”

The extensive development plan will see the University’s Refectory space on Singleton Campus converted into a new social hub by the end of 2022, which will be renamed the Swansea Social Hideaway.

A second social hub will be created on Bay Campus in place of the current Core catering outlet. These will be multifunctional, tech-enabled social spaces, offering students and staff alike space to meet, work, socialise, eat, drink and dwell in a number of settings.

The format, which replicates progressive working spaces in cities across the UK, gives students the flexibility to adapt areas, either for study, socialising, or down-time. The areas have the dexterity to drive a range of functionalities, including the hosting of pop-up events, the broadcasting of live sports matches via big-screens, and the introduction of a low and no alcohol bar.

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Chartwells Universities’ research also revealed that Gen Z spend, on average, four hours and 15 minutes on the phone each day. Furthermore, with the takeaway market experiencing a 46% increase throughout the pandemic, the ultimate convenience model taps into these macro trends with an omni-channel consumer experience, enabling students to benefit from multiple functionalities through its leading Uni Food Hub app.

The app allows students and staff to place food and drink orders for collection or delivery at locations across campus, as well as offering loyalty points and a parent wallet top up option. In a move beyond the core provision of catering, students will also be able to access educational nutritional content, book in for cooking classes, give back to their local community via volunteering opportunities, and book tickets for events across campus.

Further brand partnerships mean students can also order cook-at-home food boxes to be delivered to their halls or accommodation, through partnerships with Pizza Pilgrims and Hello Fresh.

(Lead image: Swansea University ‘The Rectory’ canteen)

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