A “love” letter to Sodexho…overrated quality at an over-the-top price

Posted on 28 April 2010 by Jonathan Stepp

As many of you know Sodexo is the corporation which provides food services on Marquette’s campus. Before I go into detailing the massive problems with Sodexo as a corporation, I do want to point out that the cafeteria workers, and the managers at the cafeterias, work extremely hard and do the best that they can to provide the students with a pleasurable dining experience. This, however, does not prevent Sodexo from failing in every respect in providing a positive dining experience. The amount that students pay for their meal plans is not reflected in the food which is served to them. For example, students pay between $7 and $11 per swipe depending upon their meal plan, whereas someone coming off the street pays between $4.20 and $7.35 depending upon the meal which they consume, i.e. breakfast is cheaper than dinner. This reveals that the students are paying much more than needed, and that students are flat out getting ripped off when they pay $7 for breakfast, which for many consists of a bowl of cereal or a bagel. In the end, it makes financial sense for students to just buy the cheapest meal plan every semester, and then buy food, keep it in their rooms, and eat it there. This is particularly true for students who have food allergies, or who are vegetarian or vegan.

The cost of the meal plans cannot be blamed directly on Sodexo, particularly given that Marquette takes roughly 35% off the top from every meal plan. This means, quite obviously, that when a student pays $1540 for the block 125 plan, then Marquette gets $539 and Sodexo gets $1001. What exactly happens to the $1001, has never been revealed by Sodexo, and the Sodexo representatives at the Q&A session held on April 19, claimed that they did not know where the money went. This then means that it is likely that at least a portion of the money goes to Sodexo corporate, with the rest going to Sodexo Marquette. The money going to corporate helps to pay for the costs of running family friendly things like private prisons and detention centers for immigrants in the UK, Ireland, and Australia. The money which stays on campus is then split between paying for overhead, paying the wages of the employees (which average $12 on campus according to the head of Sodexo Marquette), and paying for the food which is served. One would think that the food would be the top priority and that Sodexo would do whatever it could to provide high quality food. This, however, is not the case, particularly given that the target per plate cost is under $2, meaning that if a student wants to get $11 worth of food, that student would have to eat six plates of food, which is clearly an extremely unhealthy thing to do every meal, regardless of the health content of the food being served. What is then created is a system where students rarely get anywhere close to their money’s worth in terms of food consumed. As such, the current system, as it is in place, is entirely flawed in regards to the cost of food served compared to the price to consume it.

As one can see, the money which Marquette students pay for their meal plans, does not create a product which is based upon a significant portion of that money, but rather comes from a small portion, while the rest is divided between on several levels. This then leads to the current situation where most students agree that the quality of product served is inferior to that which can be purchased for less money at local eating establishments. While Dan O’Shea, head of Sodexo Marquette, claims that the food is of equal, if not superior, quality, and that other places where students could purchase food have shorter hours of operation, which apparently impacts food quality and price, what he does not realize, is that he is in fact wrong on both points. First of all the majority of students do in fact prefer off campus dining locations, which is why the number of students eating in cafeterias, not including at the AMU, has declined in the past several years, and this is also the reason for the destination dining program, which is designed to replicate the most common eating establishments which students frequent, in order to convince them to eat on campus instead of eating off campus. In addition, the hours of operation for the majority of cafeterias are 7-6:30, and not all cafeterias are open on weekends either. The only cafeteria which is open 7-12:00 everyday is McCormick, and as such, the argument that Sodexo provides long hours of operation, is completely untrue.

One can thus see the faults of Sodexo on campus. Most of the money students pay does not go to paying for food. The food quality is generally considered to be inferior. Those who run Sodexo on campus create smokescreen statements in order to confuse students. As such, we as students must demand that Sodexo either reforms its ways or be removed from campus and replaced by a company which will actually work in the name of the students, and create a quality product at an affordable price.

by Jonathan Stepp
[email protected]

11 Comments For This Post

  1. Joel Halvorsen Says:

    Thank you Jonathan for this insightful article regarding Sodexho. The fact that these food prices remain excessive is very troublesome. College students, in general, accrue large amounts of debt just to enroll in classes. However, “cost of living” expenses can sometimes be overlooked and these excessive charges from Sodexho are abhorrent. Marquette needs to step up, follow its own advice, and “Be the Difference.” This is to say that Marquette has control over who they employ to feed their students and Sodexho’s current strategy cannot be our best option. I think that Jonathan’s article should encourage this change.

  2. Summer Taylor Says:

    I am really glad to see a true report done about Sodexo. We use them at my college as and the service leaves a lot to be desired.

  3. Kelly Says:

    As a Sodexo employee, I have a very different view on your article. Sodexo is one of the best companies I have ever worked for and actually feel valued compared to other companies. The cost of a meal not only includes the food but wages, benefits, waste, fuel surcharges that most delivery companies are now charging, supplies etc. There are numerous things to mention. Sodexo promotes Diversity in the workplace.

  4. jayjay Says:

    Ok, Kelly. You are obviously a corporate shill for Sodexo, going right to the diversity card when time and time again even that has been proven wrong. Just google it. Cleanupsodexo.com

  5. sodexo slave Says:

    I have worked for sodexo at lewis university for over a year now, i have a degree in culinary arts and make little over 10 dollars an hour. when i first began working for them it took OVER A MONTH FOR ME TO RECIEVE MY FIRST PAYCHECK! talk to anyone on that campus and you will find that this is the norm with all new employees. paychecks are a joke, hours shaved off, overtime missing, i worked this labor day AND WAS NOT PAID FOR IT! and if you can prove they have screwed you out of the money you worked for it takes weeks to get it. i recently suffered multiple spinal injuries to the neck and lumbar (ruptured disks) when i was crushed from behind by 50 pound boxes in a walk in freezer that was loaded beyond capacity, when i told my supervisors they actually tried to dissuade me from filing an accident report, they tried to make me fill out a near miss report. i am still in treatment , its been a month and they have not paid one dime in workmans comp. i am in excrutiating pain, i cannot pick up my 1 year old daughter without grinding my teeth, i am forced to endure regular spinal injections while the medical bills pile up. last week i had to pawn almost anything we own of value so they wouldnt repo my wifes car and for rent and food money. they dont care about their employees at all, they are a soulless corporation that would slit a mans throat for a nickle. im a young man who now moves around like a 60 yr old, trying so hard not to lose it, may they get what they deserve

  6. Justin Says:

    I am glad to see that I am not crazy. My school also uses Sodexo and I have found the food to be absolutely disgusting. I learned last year that the food served in our cafeteria gives me heartburn. In addition, we do not have the ability to opt out of a meal plan. My family is forced to pay for it but I refuse to eat there and have instead resorted to purchasing and cooking my own food. I live with 2 other people in an apartment on campus and am fortunate enough to have a fully equipped kitchen. My roommates use the cafeteria almost daily and continually return still hungry. I make my own food and eat a fairly small amount and am satisfied. I have told my family just how bad the food is yet they refuse to believe it. My Mom called the on campus Sodexo manager who took me on a tour telling me how they use products that are brand name and how there are plenty of options. As much as they may have plenty of options and they may treat their employees well, there is absolutely no excuse for the fact that the food is lousy. I suffered a case of food poisoning last semester in February and had trouble getting my stomach to settle. I resorted to eating just plain chicken from Sodexo because I was stressed and didn’t feel well. The chicken was absolutely dry and tasteless. Myself and my roommates aren’t the only ones who think the food is lousy. I have heard many of my instructors say that it is poor as well. One more thing before I forget. Our school is set to have it’s Thanksgiving dinner family style tomorrow night. The last couple years, this has been included in our meal plan. This year however, those wanting to go are required to make a reservation and pay $10 to get in. Everyone I have mentioned this to doesn’t think it’s worth it and I have no intention of even setting foot there. At this point, the only thing I will ever get (if and when I go to the cafeteria (which is pretty much never) is a bowl of salad and a drink (usually just the drink). Sodexo must learn to start listening to those that use it rather than simply ignoring the suggestions of their customers and trying to cheap out. SODEXO SUCKS!

  7. Carissa Says:

    I am a student at Manhattan College. We have Sodexo here and aside from the cost, the food is unbearably unhealthy. Everything including calories, fat, sodium, sugar and carbs are extremely high in almost every single food option. It is slowly killing the students here.

  8. Janie Daum Says:

    This has been a real eye-opener for me. My mother in-law is at a Senior Living Facility in Silver Spring, MD and Sodexo supplies their one meal a day, dinner. They just went up in price and the food did not get any better. I have been told the main problem seems to the the meat, chicken, chicken, fish and more chicken. My mother in-law who used to love chicken now can not stand it and won’t even look at it when she is away from her facility. It is Nov. now 2011, and she moved in April 2011, at has lost 20+ pounds since she has been there, that is in less than 7 months and her doctor is concerned. If anyone knows of a solution please let me know. [email protected]

  9. LCpl USMC Says:

    In the USMC these jokers run our chow halls. If you live in the barracks, as most single Marines do, you are required to posses a “meal card” which allows you acces to the chow halls. The price of this mealcard is $300/month. Usually, a lot of Marines don’t even use the chow hall all that much due to nothing ever being available, horribly long slow moving lines due to mismanagement and whatnot.

  10. Sam Wise Says:

    I work at a coporation with cafe’s being run by sodexo trashy food. Its terrible quality. After one of the grossest meals yesterday I’m done and will only eat from the chain foods that are also available here. Its higher priced than the hard working higher quality restauraunts nearby. I DONT UNDERSTAND WHY THEY ARE STILL HERE! How in the world did sodexo land this contract with terrible quality. Bad quality, high prices, they have nothing going for them. Good by sodexo, welcome to the future. Your practices will never make it through the next 10 years.

  11. Sam Wise Says:

    And in reply to the woman who says she works at sodexo…if the local restaraunts can make a great profit and provide high quality/well priced food, with the SAME expenses as sodexo, then theres no excuse for what is going on with sodexo and they can increase their quality and provide competitive prices.

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