By Emily Gibson
Recent changes through Sodexo management have been made to dining hours, meal swipes and portion sizes on campus.
Changes include an extended time for dinner and smaller portion sizes in the Apple Dining Hall as well as no more meal swipes in the hub which Sodexo officials say are to help combat food waste and cost.
“The first couple of weeks I was here, I stayed in the dish room scraping plates so I could see what was being thrown away, and it was actually a lot,” said Andrew Bullard, Sodexo general manager. “Probably more than half of the food that we made ended up in the trash.”
Last semester, in an attempt to spread awareness of food waste and encourage diners to cut back, Bullard placed signs around the Apple Dining Hall. He said that helped some, but not enough.
“It was not a sustainable model, so the whole purpose of smaller portions this year is that you are able to try all of the things around or multiple of the things around without necessarily getting overly full on one particular thing,” said Bullard.
The model of dining in which Bullard refers to is also known as destination dining.
“If you notice every station has a different plate, and that’s on purpose,” said Bullard. “Number one is it makes each station a destination, and number two is it lets us know how many people have gone through each station because we stack up plates. We count them when they come to the dish room, and this helps with our data collection concerning how much food to make and when to make it.”
According to Kayla Richey, dining hall manager, the portion sizes in the Apple Dining Hall this year are the college standard, and most students are not aware of this.
“They think that we’re just trying to feed them less, but we’re actually following what we’re supposed to do,” said Richey.
Not only does food waste directly impact food costs, but so do meal swipes. “Sodexo only receives about $5.61 per meal swipe to feed the students, 40 percent of which is then taken to cover food, and pretty much the rest of it goes to labor because we have to pay all the staff out of that as well. So there’s not a lot of margin there,” said Bullard.
Last year when meal swipes were an option in The Hub, an average of 200 people with a meal plan swiped at the hub after 7 p.m. because the dining hall was closed.
According to Bullard, the cost to make an individual something to order at the hub is more expensive than having a very similar item in the dining hall.
“That’s 30 percent of your folks going to get a more expensive item every single day,” said Bullard. “It didn’t make mathematical sense to keep doing that, so we made the decision to forego meal swipes in The Hub and to open the dining hall later to give people more options and more flexibility using their actual dining plan.”
The new Apple Dining Hall hours Monday through Friday are 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. for breakfast, 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, and 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. for dinner.
David Sims, junior marketing major, said he is thankful for the extended hours in the dining hall because as a student taking 18 credit hours with RA responsibilities, two campus jobs and a personal business on the side, he often has to eat dinner late, and now he has that option.
Additionally, as someone who has had a severe gluten allergy since the age of two, Sims said he actually looks forward to going to the cafeteria this year because of how many options it affords him and how good the food tastes.
“This year has been a lot better experience for me with a meal plan,” said Sims.
According to Bullard, the biggest complaint from students so far this semester concerns portion sizes while the biggest compliment concerns extended hours. Nonetheless, the changes made to campus dining were made in consideration of solicited feedback from surveys, online polling, questionnaires and in an effort to give diners a better experience in the cafeteria.
Bullard said his aim for Sodexo dining at Trevecca is to be listed on the Princeton Review of Top Campus Dining Services. His advice to any student who may have concerns or questions concerning their dining experience is to be an advocate for themselves.
“No news is good news in the food service world, and we want your experience to be as positive as possible, but we cannot fix it if we don’t know what’s wrong,” said Bullard.