By Samantha Newman–
Asking the average Menlo College student what they think about our food will often result in a displeased noise coming from somewhere deep inside their throat. Many students (myself included) feel unsatisfied about Sodexo, our food service provider. Complaints range from not liking the fries all the way to receiving undercooked chicken. Now, I understand that food service is no easy industry. Everyone has different tastes and preferences. However, when the majority of the student body is expressing contempt for the food and service we are being provided, there is obviously an issue that needs to be addressed.
I decided to take some action, and drafted up an email to the corporate office of Sodexo, and explained the issues we were having at Menlo. The next day I received an email from AJ, the general manager of Menlo’s Sodexo, apologizing for the issues at hand. He asked me to set up a meeting to talk about what I had written in the email. I obliged and set up a meeting with him the following Monday.
Shortly after that correspondence, I received another email, this time from corporate. David Lake, the district manager, informed me that the regional vice president, Pamela Smith would be coming to Menlo on Wednesday. He explained that she wanted to meet with me. Of course I agreed to meet with her as well, and arranged that meeting.
On Monday I met with AJ along with my roommate, Miranda Curtis, who had complaints about Sodexo while staying on campus this summer for her internship in the area.
We talked to AJ about many issues that concerned us, and got some answers. We talked to him about food quality in general, fruit flies near the cereal, dish cleanliness, having a variety of fruit, customer service, hours of the cafeteria, signage, and food options for people with dietary restrictions.
AJ apologized for many of these, and kept expressing that issues should be brought to him in person. I told him that the comment cards had been gone since last semester and had only been replaced after I sent the email. However, he took notes about our complaints and promised to make changes that were feasible.
Pamela Smith met with me on Wednesday.This time another unhappy student, Katrina Ford, came with me. Sitting down with Pam, I received the overall impression that she genuinely cared about making changes to our dining experience at Sodexo. We expressed to her unfortunate customer service problems, inconvenient hours, poor cleanliness, lack of dining options for people with dietary restrictions, dining environment, and weekend and summer dining. Pam took notes and notified us that she had seen these problems as well on her first visit. That was when Sodexo put out the flowers, which you might have noticed about 3 weeks ago.
After both meetings, the following days I noticed that Sodexo had begun labeling everything with clearer signs. They had also begun putting out pears, peaches, and strawberries. AJ informed me that he had called for an exterminator to come to the cafeteria. A few days after that as I was hanging flyers in the evening, I saw the exterminator in the cafeteria spraying. It was reassuring to see that things were actually being done.
The best email I got by far was from Pam Smith which clearly laid out what was being done about each issue we brought up to her. She stated that there was a chef that would be coming on October 12th and training the team on menu development: gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options, as well as improving overall quality. She also said that she was working with Steve Weiner on making the dining environment better, reviewing the hours of operation for both the fall semester and the summer with Steve and Lisa Webb, training employees on customer service, and honing in on sanitation efforts.
It was nice to see that someone in a position of power had been so receptive to the complaints from the student body. While Sodexo still has a lot of room for growth when it comes to pleasing Menlo, I feel that their recent efforts are a step in the right direction. I look forward to seeing how they begin to implement these changes, and hopefully having a better dining experience.