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Chartwells opens Smoothie Lab and promises further improvements

The improvements were announced in an apology email to students

A Smoothie Lab employee makes a smoothie while their coworker rings up a customer on March 15, 2024 at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. The Smoothie Lab also serves açaí bowls. // Photo by Xander Johnson

Chartwells opened a new dining location called Smoothie Lab in the Wade King Recreation Center at Western Washington University on March 4. The Smoothie Lab serves açaí bowls and smoothies. 

Opening Smoothie Lab was one of the changes promised by Chartwells, the company in charge of dining at Western.  

An announcement detailing future improvements was emailed to students and posted on the WWU dining website on Feb. 2. The email contained an apology for the food availability and dining hall operations issues that students faced this year at Western. 

“As a new partner on campus, we are still getting to know the campus community and appreciate the patience that the community has given us,” said Andrew Gaynor, the Chartwells West Division district manager. “We learned a lot from the feedback that we have heard and are committed to making continued improvements where we see opportunities.”

Chartwells also added ice cream coolers to the dining halls. 

Other events promised in the email are a late-night breakfast in the Viking Commons dining hall which occurred on March 18, and the opening of Bok Choy in the Viking Union. The timeframe for opening Bok Choy is undetermined, but once it is open it will serve rice bowls, noodles and other Asian-inspired dishes, Gaynor said. 

Additionally, Chartwells introduced new protocols to ensure service and food quality standards are being adhered to, Gaynor said. 

“They just started doing it, so I’m not entirely sure how it works, but there’s a point system for employees based on write-ups because we get a lot of no-call-no-shows,” said Owen Forester, a student manager at the Ridgeway Commons dining hall. “It’s just something to try to keep people a little more reliable.”

There was student outcry related to an inconsistent food supply during the fall quarter and winter snowstorm. However, some students have seen an improvement to food availability lately.

“Outside of like the main eating hours of like 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., you wouldn’t get a lot of food options in past quarters,” said Evan Piccola, a second-year student at Western. “I’ve noticed they’ve definitely expanded availability outside of those hours, so when I have time in between classes, there’s always food available.”

 Some students have been unimpressed with the quality of food in the dining halls.

“I try to not have both my meals in the dining halls because the food can make me feel kind of off at times,” said Eddie Dougherty, a first-year at Western. “Up on the Ridge they have had undercooked chicken, so people have a general annoyance with the quality of the dining hall food.”

Other students, like Piccola, feel indifferent about the food quality.

“It’s all just pretty mid,” Piccola said. “Nothing amazing, but also nothing really terrible.”

With all the discourse surrounding the dining halls this year, Chartwells is attempting to take that feedback into account. 

“I remember them sending out a survey to fill out about what you’d like to see,” said Aubrey Spillane, a third-year student. “I remember them specifically saying people asked for ice cream, so they brought that back.”

Students can submit feedback to the dining halls by texting their hotline at 360-230-5882 or by filling out a form on the dining website.

Xander Johnson

Xander Johnson (he/him) is a campus news reporter for The Front. He is majoring in Public Relations/Journalism. In his free time, he hosts a radio show at KUGS FM, goes hiking with friends, and loses track of time reading books. Xander can be reached at

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