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Sodexo brings new dining options, features to campus

September 18, 2008

UW-River Falls Dining Services made the switch from long-term food provider Chartwells to Sodexo in late May. The company has brought new and different features to the campus, and canceled some as well.

One of the new features is a Mexican restaurant, which replaced a more fast-food oriented counter called Coyote Jack’s. Another is an Asian restaurant, Mein Bowl. For the first time sushi is now available on campus. Sodexo also brought along its signature counter, World of Wings. Sodexo features continuous dining, and the main hall and remains open every day from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Sodexo Group is based in France. Its subsidiary, Sodexo Inc., is headquartered in Gaithersburg, MD. The company’s Web site claims it is “the leading provider of food and facilities management services in the U.S., Canada and Mexico” with over 120,000 employees in North America, and took in 7.3 billion dollars in revenue in 2007 alone.

The University started looking for a new provider last spring when survey results suggested the students wanted to see some changes to the service, Director of Dining Services Jerry Waller said. Sodexo was chosen out of four initial companies, two of which went on to submit applications. The company now has a seven-year contract with UWRF, Waller said, and began servicing the school after Chartwells’ contract expired on May 31.

“Right now its a challenge,” Waller said. “They’re learning, we’re learning. I think students like to pick and choose the aspects they had last year and add them to the ones they had this year, but they’re two different companies.”

Students in the University Center also gave their opinions on the switch.

“[Sodexo’s] got its peaks and it’s got its downsides,” said Emily Thell, a junior pursuing a major in international studies in German. “The continuous dining is good; there’s always food available. The food is slightly better tasting.”

Jacob Mallman, a senior food science major, said Sodexo’s changes were positive.

“Just overall, it seems like Sodexo is getting a fresh start, whereas Chartwells was kind of pushing their limits,” Mallman said.

Residents typically choose a prepaid meal plan. If they decide not to eat in the dining hall, they have the choice of transferring a meal to another approved restaurant in the University Center. This formula has not changed, but the choices have.

“There’s no sub transfer,” Thell said. “There used to be a transfer area where you could get burgers, fries, cold sandwiches … the transfer options aren’t as good.”

Another concern was that Sodexo is no longer providing trays.

“In the main dining hall you can only take one plate at a time,” said Chris Olson, a junior communications major. “And you can’t have trays. [It’s] to cut down on food waste, I guess, so you don’t take as much at a time.”

However, the service is still quite new and nothing is set in stone.

“I think we’ll see continued changes to accommodate the students,” Waller said. “I’m positive about that aspect.”