Sodexo takes over dining services
On July 1, Sodexo officially replaced Aramark as the University's dining services provider. The change came almost six months after University administration announced that it would be sending requests for proposal to dining service providers, including Aramark, Sodexo and Chartwells.
"This was a long process; this was a painful process for a lot of people," said Senior Vice President for Administration Mark Collins in an interview with the Justice. He added, "I think there's a level of excitement about the change."
He commended Aramark's staff members for their work over almost two decades at the University. "There are a lot of good people on that team, and they've worked hard over the past 15 years," he said.
Collins did not attribute the switch to any concrete factors, but said instead that "at the end of the day, it was decided by the Brandeis team that it was time for a change."
"We are excited the University has selected us as their strategic partner for Dining services," wrote Jay DeGioia, the University's new resident district manager, in an email to the Justice. According to DeGioia, he and his staff were notified of Brandeis' selection of Sodexo on June 14.
"There will be some great enhancements to the program this fall semester with a lot of exciting things proposed," wrote DeGioia. "I will share these as soon as they are finalized. We have also made suggestions on meal plans and will also share those and the time frame for rollout."
According to Collins, meal plans would remain essentially unchanged for the next academic year, pending feedback from students. However, one plan, the all-points plan, has been eliminated.
DeGioia was joined on July 1 by a campus executive chef, David LaFleur, and Rachel Oppenheimer, the new director of campus operations for Sodexo. DeGioia added that "we also have some other great people lined up, and as they come on board we will welcome them to the community."
While Collins would not reveal the terms of Sodexo's new contract with the University, he said that the deal included an "attractive financial package" with a "multi-million dollar enhancement fund." However, the most expansive renovations, including a revamp of Sherman Dining Hall and potentially converting Usdan CafÃ© into an all-you-can-eat style dining hall, will not be realized until next summer.
Some of the changes that students can expect to see on campus in the fall will include the addition of a Dunkin' Donuts in the Village in place of the Provisions on Demand Market, a Guy Fieri on Campus restaurant in place of Ollie's Eatery and the Stein, and Russo's Market and Starbucks products at dining facilities, according to Collins.
It is unclear at this point whether or not a full Starbucks venue will be completed this fall, but the eventual installation of one is planned for the EcoGrounds Cafe location in Goldfarb Library.
Einstein Bros. Bagels and the Usdan Student Center Provisions on Demand Market location, now dubbed the Hoot Market, will remain. In fact, Einstein's may expand-both in the size of its location and its menu, to which hot breakfast sandwiches may be added.
Maura Boughter-Dornfeld '14, a representative of the Real Food campaign at Brandeis, was involved in the decision-making process this spring.
"The presentations were really incredible," she wrote in an email to the Justice.
According to Boughter-Dornfeld, both Aramark and Sodexo's proposals included a goal that the Real Food campaign had advocated for: 20 percent "real food"-meaning "humane, local, ecologically sound, and fair-trade"-by 2015.
"The change to Sodexo is huge, and very exciting, but there is still quite a lot of work to be done in order to make much of the campus happy," wrote Boughter-Dornfeld.
After the announcement was broadcast via email, Facebook and Twitter, multiple members of the campus community pointed to Sodexo's lengthy list of cases filed with the National Labor Relations Board, as well as student and employee protests at the University of Washington, Emory University and Clark University, as cause for concern.
Addressing these concerns in an email to the Justice, Senior Vice President for Communications Ellen de Graffenreid wrote that "Brandeis is committed to ensuring that all vendor operations on our campus are carried out to the highest legal and ethical standards and ... monitoring this behavior is a routine part of our business operations."
Collins confirmed this statement and added that all union employees that had worked under Aramark will have the option to stay on with Sodexo. As of June 27, almost all had filled out applications, formally initiating the transfer. The same union will continue to represent the employees, he said.
Student dining workers will have to undergo the same process, but can also expect to stay on in the positions they had held under Aramark, said Collins.
While Collins said that he had been made aware of some problems with Sodexo at other locations, he expected that the same conditions would not exist at Brandeis.
"It's not going to be tolerated at Brandeis, period," he said.
Sodexo, a globally-operated company based in France, also handles dining operations at neighboring Bentley University and Babson College, among other universities, hospitals and large venues across the U.S.
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