November 16, 2011 — Brent Beringer, ARAMARK's resident district manager of University of Virginia Dining Services, has received a national award recognizing his work to improve on-Grounds dining at the University.
It is the first College Foodservice Excellence Award given by the National Association of College Auxiliary Services in conjunction with On-Campus Hospitality magazine. Beringer received the award at the association's annual conference in Orlando.
"It was quite a shock," he said. "It was amazing and humbling, especially after I talked with some of the other nominees and heard what they were doing. This is wonderful for our team to let them know that our accomplishments are being recognized."
Beringer, 50, has been at the University for 10 years, during which time he has expanded the dining operation to 26 locations, including five residential dining halls and 21 retail outlets including cafés, coffee stands and small stores, and has nearly doubled, to 8,600, the number of students who choose the University meal plan.
"This is something that is entirely voluntary," he said.
Among the accomplishments of which he is most proud, Beringer cited the expansion of the dining outlets, increasing professional and personal development opportunities for the roughly 500 employees of dining services and contributing to the University community.
Leonard Sandridge, special adviser to President Teresa A. Sullivan, was among those recommending Beringer for the award. He said that, although dining services is operated by ARAMARK, Beringer is full member of the University community.
"He strikes the balance between service to ARAMARK and meeting the needs of our students, employees and guests," wrote Sandridge, who recently retired as executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Beringer has "been at the forefront" of many changes in the program, such as removing trays from the dining halls, which reduced water use and food waste, increasing organic and vegetarian offerings, and expanding menu variety, he wrote.
Richard Kovatch, associate vice president for business operations, also praised Beringer's role in the community.
"Brent has been an extremely active member, working with student groups on various projects, including sustainability initiatives such as composting and purchasing locally provided foods and establishing a local chapter of Campus Kitchens to provide food for the needy," he said in his letter of recommendation.
Beringer has worked with students and the local food movement, increasing to 28 percent the amount of regional food served in the dining operation. Jessica Wenger, environmental projects manager at the Office of Environmental Health and Safety, said he was instrumental is supporting the student-driven composting operation, which recycles about 100 tons of food waste a year.
"Brent was willing to listen to the students' idea, worked closely with me on the Department of Environmental Quality's involvement in approving the process, and continues to support the program in any way he can," Wenger said in her recommendation of Beringer.
U.Va. Dining was the first college or university department to receive an Exemplary Environmental Enterprise, or E3, designation from the state for its environmental management system and sustainability efforts.
Beringer is currently working on the renovation of dining facilities in Newcomb Hall, which will add 400 seats and feature a "kitchenless" design.
"We will have open food preparation areas spread throughout the facility," he said. "For example, they'll make pizza dough right in front of the customers."
And he is already looking ahead to the next project – reassessing the menus.
"We want to look at the meal plan structure, because we have not made a change in the base menu in 20 years," he said.