Upgrade of Downgrade: a dig behind-the-scenes of Winthrop’s new food source

It is out with Aramark and in with Sodexo as Winthrop changes their dining service company, but how do students feel about the “upgrade?”

“Sign this petition if you agree the new dining services food and lack of services is not worth the pay.”

These were the words on a petition against Sodexo started by a student in early September. As of Sept. 18, the petition has reached 118 signatures. Students have varying opinions about the new dining service but does it have to do with their inability to accept change or have they expressed valid concerns?

Alicia Gilchrist, a Sodexo petition signer said that she feels that it is a downgrade from Winthrop’s previous company Aramark.

“I signed the petition because I am tired of eating the same foods everyday, and there is no variety, not even in the cereal is there a variety.”

Gilchrist was also concerned with the fact that Sodexo has not provided straws in Thomson Cafeteria because it could be a health issue.

Sodexo’s contract with Winthrop was made official on Aug. 1, 2018. Students began coming back to campus on Aug. 15, 2018. Dining Services general manager Bryan Harriss said that the short transition period and staff shortage impacted the things Sodexo could do before the start of classes.

“Our biggest goal was to make sure we got all the current operations up and running,” Harriss said.

Harriss said that the program changes were not able to be set into full effect within a certain period of time, but they were able to prepare meal plans, menu revisions, food preparation changes, and add Sodexo brand names.    

Most of students’ concerns with Sodexo are the variety, quality, accessibility items like to-go boxes, straws, customer service, pricing in Markley’s and the speed of service.

In response to the students concerns, operations manager Kevin Boyle said, “There was obviously some frustration. We have to look to the big picture. All they see is ‘I’m not getting what I want, when I want it’ and we feel really responsible for that.”  

Boyle says that within the next few months, Sodexo will continue to add and improve dining on campus. They plan on improving issues and adding new options to the concessions at the coliseum. Sodexo also has plans to add allergy free offerings in Thomson Cafeteria and even an electronic online ordering system.

“The biggest thing that we’re really excited about is a new app for students phone’s called Tapingo. They can do online ordering right there on their phone,” Boyle said. This online ordering option will be available at all Markley’s eateries and Starbucks.

As the school year continues, Sodexo will definitely be making more changes. The managers are open to hear students opinions, but are approaching the situation differently if they want to truly understand students point of view.

Sophomore Brandon Jackson was very disappointed when he visited Thomson Cafeteria and they were low on food. He feels as if the company could do better when it comes to hearing the concerns of students.

“They can seek improvement. They can do surveys, ask students how they feel and improve customer service. They can have adequate inventory to feed students. They can seek better varieties.”

For now, students can continue making the managers aware of what they want and hope for improvements.

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