Rendering via Chartwell Higher Education
The rendering depicts students order food from the counter of the future Panera Bread. Panera Bread and Habit Burger will begin construction on campus during summer 2019. The rendering is a preliminary sketch of the building and is not officially what the space will look like.

The University of Nevada, Reno Food and Dining Services plans to renovate the Downunder Cafe Store and bring two new fast food businesses to campus — Habit Burger and Panera Bread.

Habit Burger will be located in the Joe Crowley Student Union in place of the Blind Onion. Panera Bread will locate in the Fitzgerald Student Services Building. Construction will begin this summer and students may eat at these restaurants by fall 2019.

“I think the fundamental is to give student more choices and more opportunity to use their meal plans,” said Jerome Maese, Director for Residential Life. “Currently, enrollment looks like it’s going to be flat for a few years, but when the time the number starts picking up, our renovations and our operations should easily handle it.”

The university estimated a 21,500 headcount for fall 2019, compared to the 21,450 enrolled for the 2018 fall semester.

There are also plans on renovation for the Downunder Cafe Store and the Overlook summer 2020 and the Downunder Cafe summer 2021. Maese estimates the renovations will cost Dining Services around several million. The money is being allocated by the food service sales, which includes meal plans and food service operations. The university will receive a percentage of profit.

“I think that everything after a certain number of years needs a facelift, needs renovation and needs a breath of new life into it and as the time changes and architecture changes and the style changes,” said Heidi Rich, Chartwell’s Marketing Director. “I think it’s important for a company to evolve with the times.”

Students will be able to have two meal trades per day starting in fall 2019. Participating restaurants include Panera Bread, Habit Burger, Grill 775, Urban Revolution, Second City Deep Dish Pizza, Mandalay Express, Forklift, Smoked, DeliNV, Elements, Bytes and Pathway.

“For us, we are looking to bring national organizations to campus that add variety and we have Habit Burger coming and Panera Bread, this summer,” said Cody Begg, Chartwell’s Resident District Manager. “With the new contract, we got a full ten years of meal enhancement across the entire campus.”

The renovations are being done in phases to avoid student limitation on dining options. Meal choices are not planned to change at the DC and DC Store.

Early this year, the university received three proposals from three different companies looking to work with dining services. Representatives from various resident halls, organizations and faculty members went to presentations. Chartwell was then chosen to be renewed by these committees.

“It felt good knowing that our opinions mattered on the topic,” said sophomore Karla Arango. “It was well formatted and they gave enough time for questions. I got to experience their ideas for next year, exactly how they plan to remodel places. We also got to leave our own inputs on the subject. We also got the opportunity to tell them exactly what we didn’t like from their ideas. For example, I wasn’t on board with recyclable to-go boxes because they didn’t have a proper way of reusing them. It was more like every resident buys their own and have to bring it back and forth with no plan B for students on the run or if they lose their box. I myself am not a big fan of their idea, just because of the food options they also wanted to offer. It just didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I think it is a good idea and I support it but I do believe it needs more time to be evaluated and set up properly.”

Chartwells Higher Education, a division of Compass Group Plc, is the company working with Dining Services in these renovations. They recently renewed their contract with the university for another ten years. Chartwells has worked with 280 colleges and universities in the U.S. and has worked with UNR since 1999.

Begg revealed there will be an option for student employment at Panera Bread and Habit Burger. Chartwell has six student internships. Some of these internships include graphic design and sustainability.

Gretchen Berg, the Resident Hall Association Food and Dining Representative, said next year, students living in the residence halls will have more retail options and some changes to their meal plans.

“RHA is currently going through a restructuring process which will change the nature of my position,” Berg said in an email to the Nevada Sagebrush. “There will no longer be an explicit “Food and Dining” board as there is at the moment. However, Dining and my board have discussed retaining some sort of similar group to address the interests of students in relation to food and dining. My position covers conveying feedback and acting as a liaison between RHA and Chartwells Dining.”

Meal plans for the 2019-2020 academic school year will range from $4,210 to $5,600.  

The Associated Students at the University of Nevada illustrated a resolution to establish their priorities regarding the university dining contract. Their priorities included sustainability, affordability, partnership with Pack Provisions and have options for student feedback.

Panera Bread filed an application with the City of Sparks on Wednesday, April 24 to open a location at the Outlets at Legends Mall.

Taylor Johnson can be reached at or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.