Whether you’re at the CDR, Post 95, Founders or Simply-to-Go, one company is behind it all: Sodexo.
This is not news, as Wittenberg signed a contract with Sodexo — previously Sodexho-Mariott and Sodexho — many years ago. And now, after coming to the U.S. in the 1980s to eventually become the world leader in food services in 1995, the company has over 100,000 employees, 9,000 sites in the U.S. alone and $9.2 billion in revenue. Yet, after many years with the food service giant on campus, some students are wondering ‘why Sodexo?’
“I feel certain that quality of service was the primary factor,” said Mark DeVilbiss, associate dean for Residence Life. “Sure, it’s a good value, too, but the aspects of working with Sodexo that I enjoy best are the friendly, personalized dining experience students get and the fact that Sodexo can bring the resources of a big company (e.g., online menus with detailed nutritional information) to us. We get a small campus feel with the resources of a major company in the food service industry.”
On a tour of the CDR, General Manager of Dining Services Noah Ristau described some of what he considered to be advantages of having a large company like Sodexo on a small campus. On the menu options: “We can be nimble,” Ristau said. The Dining Services staff manufacture student surveys, personalize options based on student needs (i.e., the vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options) and monitor what entrées are popular so as to offer what’s in demand. They can provide options like the Mindful Menu, which “meets healthy criteria for salt, fat and sugar,” or the movement toward sustainability, which includes composting waste and “purchasing local produce whenever possible.”
A variety of options is important, as Sodexo is the sole food provider on Witt’s campus. Cited from the Student Organization Guidebook, “Wittenberg has an exclusive contract with Sodexo Campus Services for all food service needs on campus. No other caterer may be contracted for an event held on campus, unless approval has been granted by Dining Services.”
“While our exclusivity does facilitate efficiencies in the program we offer and supports the many ways we give back to Wittenberg, one of its fundamental intentions is a guarantee of food service safety for everyone that eats on campus,” said Ristau.
Still, some students are dissatisfied.
“I don’t like Sodexo,” junior Brian Kelley said. His dissatisfaction lies with “over-priced services for the CDR and campus events,” as well as what he said was “quantity trump[ing] quality.”
Other students, though, like sophomore Andrew Zielinski have a different perspective: “I get a buffet three times a day. Food quality is irrelevant to me,” he said.
A concern of not only Witt students but students at universities across the board, has been Sodexo employees. But since Sodexo does take on all of campus catering, what about the ones who make it work on the ground — the employees?
“Are they treated well?” senior Ben Brown asked. It turns out morale seems to be high among Sodexo staff.
“It’s all good,” a veteran cook who’s been with Sodexo for 25 years, said. He said he thinks things are changing — and for the better.
Although no wage amounts were shared, Dawn Kolb, retail supervisor at Post 95, said, “No one is coming to me saying they’re not making enough money.”
“I started flipping burgers at Burger King, and now I’m lead supervisor of retail. I’m happy where I’m at,” Kolb said.