Sodexo makes return to campus after 5 years


by Erin Johnson, Staff Reporter

After Simpson College officials recently announced plans to switch from Chartwells to Sodexo, a more localized organization that was in contract five years ago, students and faculty alike are expecting positive change.

Heidi Levine, vice president for student development, said Chartwells’ dining service wasn’t what she expected, mentioning there should be more variety and consistency in Pfeiffer Dining Hall.

Levine also brought up the issue that there isn’t enough signage indicating vegan or gluten-free foods. She also emphasized accessibility for students, especially if they have certain needs, and she didn’t see that from Chartwells.

“I know that there (are) some people that could eat pizza every day, and they’re going to be happy, and they’re not looking for a ton of variety and excitement,” Levine said. “But other people are.”

Seventy percent of total food consumption comes from Kent Campus Center while the remaining 30 percent comes from Pfeiffer. With the addition of Sodexo, the college hopes the dining hall can return to its status when Sodexo was working under them five years ago.

In the past five years that Chartwells worked for Simpson, the general manager has changed six times, the current manager having started one month ago. The frequent turnover in leadership makes it hard to build a program, one of Chartwells’ struggles.

Freshman Jordan Pope said that he’s hoping Sodexo will bring great employees and relations.

“I think it’s good that we’re able to find someone who would better fit the needs of students because there’s a lot of complaints about dining here on campus,” Pope said. “If we’re able to find an organization that better meets our needs and is still able to take care of things that we didn’t like, I think it’s awesome.”

He is hopeful Sodexo will bring better training for employees, saying employees under Chartwells, including student workers, weren’t trained as well as they should have been.

“We were just very frustrated with the level of service we were getting. Sodexo’s been a trusted partner with us for years,” said Ken Birkenholtz, vice president of business and finance. “They do a great job on our facilities, so I am very much looking forward to partnering back up with Sodexo.”

Birkenholtz said they changed from Sodexo to Chartwells in the first place when Kent Campus Center was first built back in 2010.

Sodexo’s proposal wasn’t as impressive as Chartwells, he said. The move was not out of pure dissatisfaction for Sodexo’s service.

With Sodexo’s plans for the future, new venues aren’t far away.

Au Bon Pain and Red Mango will stay throughout the 2016-17 academic year.

College officials are investigating other options where ABP and Red Mango stand, according to Luke Behaunek, dean of students, though plans are subject to change.

The menus at Tyler’s and Pfeiffer could change as well, though the changes would not go into effect immediately. Prices will also remain the same, according to Behaunek.

Behaunek also discussed a specific section in Pfeiffer that would be allergen free.

“I think there will be things offered next year that weren’t offered this year, and there are things offered currently that won’t be offered next year,” he said.

According to Birkenholtz, Sodexo plans on hiring as many of the employees that currently work on campus as possible to have continuity on campus next fall.

The change goes into effect June 1.