June 7, 2004

Sodexho takes over Emory food service


By Eric Rangus

Memorial Day weekend marked the official transition to Sodexho as Emory’s food service provider. Eateries all over campus closed on Friday, May 28, and reopened Tuesday, June 1. Some, such as a handful of food offerings in Cox Hall, have been reborn; others will await change over the summer; and still others, such as coffee shops in Woodruff Library and White Hall, should go from the drawing board to the service counter in the fall.

Included among the small-but-significant changes at Cox are a renamed Bakeshop, Italian eatery (La Vincita), salad bar (Garden Toss, which now offers served salads), a deli featuring high-quality Boar’s Head meats, and the Emory Market, which replaces the Home Zone but still offers a mix of comfort foods.

Most of the faces working the registers and behind the screens are the same (as are anchor restaurants Chick-fil-A and Burger King), but the uniforms have changed—now white and blue with “Emory Dining” stitched on the front.

Aramark’s loss of the Emory contract left many concerned for their jobs, but Sodexho offered all hourly employees jobs, many at their existing positions; others would be provided training for new responsibilities. According to Kiki Dole, marketing manager for Emory dining, 95 percent of the hourly employees working for Aramark signed on with Sodexho and continued at Emory. Some of Aramark’s Emory-based managers moved to Sodexho as well.

“Everybody seems to be happy,” said Dole, who is on the front lines of Sodexho’s nearly 40-member management transition team, along with Dave Sauers, Patty Erbach and Kathy Lambui. Those four will form the core of the Emory Dining management team once the transition is completed this summer. Part of that transition means establishing Sodexho brands, which explains the name changes in Cox. For the June 1 Cox Hall reopening, as well as at other campus dining establishments, Sodexho managers greeted visitors and answered questions.

“There were initial concerns with people wondering if they were going to have jobs, but everyone is OK,” Dole said.

Sodexho is the largest food and management services provider in North America, employing more than 130,000 people in the United States and Canada. Its education food services branch handles nearly 100 colleges and universities in the southeastern United States, including Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Kennesaw State.

Other Sodexho branches provide food service to elementary and secondary schools, the U. S. military, hospitals and health care systems, and stadiums and athletic facilities, as well as vending and laundry services.

Sodexho bested two other companies, including the incumbent Aramark, to win a five-year contract to provide dining services across the Emory campus (including Oxford and Emory entities as the Carlos Museum) when it was re-bid earlier this year.
Not only does Sodexho now provide the large majority of the food provided on campus, but it also has a say in the setup of facilities. Sodexho entered the bidding process with a lot of ideas and now many are coming to fruition. One such spot is in the Dobbs Food Court.

“We’d like to turn some things around and open up the walls in the kitchen,” Dole said. That way, the work of new Executive Chef Jerry Painter and his coworkers will be visible to all diners. “We don’t like to hide what we’re doing back there. It’s not mystery meat and potatoes.”

A majority of meals will be made to order, and while one fear is that this will slow things down, Dole said that may not be the case.

“The platforms in this restaurant dining concept are designed to serve multiple doners.” she said.

Traffic flow is a major concern in Cox Hall. “We’re looking at options to make the flow simpler in Cox,” Dole said. “It can get pretty congested. But there won’t be any major renovations until 2005. So, because that will take so much time, we’re going to do the rest of the campus now. Although there are a lot of things on the table.”

Perhaps the most significant additions to the Emory campus will be the planned additions of Jazzman’s Cafés in Woodruff Library and White Hall. The cafés, a Sodexho trademarked brand, offer coffee, sandwiches and bakery items made fresh daily. In addition to the Jazzman’s in White Hall, Dole said Sodexho is planning to add a Quizno’s subs next to it. Sodexho is working with Facilities Management to line up plans for these additions.

“Our goal is to be in by the fall,” she said. “But we’re trying to work with the architecture of the school. We don’t want to put anything in that’s not up to par with anything else on campus. This is a beautiful campus—everything is museum quality—so if it takes an extra month, we’d rather do it right.”

Sodexho also is expanding programs to provide online ordering and catering. Those websites should be operational in July.

One program that Sodexho is carrying over from last year is the staff meal plan, which gives Emory staff 5 percent off meals purchased on campus using their Emory Cards.

Only now, the program has been improved. Instead of carrying a separate account for food purchases, employees now can use their Plus accounts for food as well as other items such as office supplies.

All these changes aside, the most important question is: How does the food taste? The answer? It’s too early to tell.

“It’s good,” said Theresa Kenney, senior accountant in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, jabbing a fork into her green beans, purchased from the Emory Market the day after Cox Hall reopened. “But it’s not Momma’s.”

“The food is fresh and the quality is good,” said Kharen Fulton, director of admissions in the graduate school and Kenney’s lunch companion. “And you get all the fixin’s,” she said of the served salad she bought at Garden Toss. “But I like making my own salad.”