Weber State University’s primary food provider, Sodexo, renewed a five-year contract with the instruction in their plans to gain $1.75 million in capital investments and give students, faculty and staff low-priced and high-quality meals.

According to Sodexo General Manager Jessica Alford, the renovations over the summer took six weeks to complete due to the wait of the official contract signing. The company also hired a new marketing manager, Amberlynn Hoy, who Alford said would “promote activities and use social media outlets frequently.”

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Sodexo spent $1.5 million in improvements and renovations on store locations to reach their goal. This spending allowed students to purchase from retail dining locations in Shepherd Union, such as Einstein Bros. Bagels, Stone Pizza Co. and others.

Spencer Ferguson, a junior attending Weber State, said he’s satisfied with the quality of Sodexo’s food, particularly at Einstein Bros. Bagels.

“Their breakfast bagels are filling and taste good because of how well the sandwiches’ ingredients compliments each other,” Ferguson said. “It’s good way to start the day.”

The revenue for Union Sushi has doubled, and the Quick Zone is able to display more pick-up-and-go products with new refrigerators. Other stores were positively affected because of the renovations.

There are still more renovations to be done as a Starbucks will open at Tracy Hall in January, and Tapingo, an online ordering system, will be accessible through mobile devices after the app launches this semester. The rest of the $25,000 in capital investments will be spent on these renovations.

Despite these improvements, residents of Wildcat Village are concerned with the contract renewal.

Sodexo provides exclusive dinner options to students who live on campus. Students can’t access the retail stores when they close at about 4:30 p.m. The contract affects on-campus residents more than other students because residents dine daily at Sodexo locations.

Students participated in a survey in which they shared their views on how well Sodexo pleased the students prior to the new contract. When the results were finalized, it indicated that overall Sodexo has pleased students with their service, facilities and food products in Shepherd Union.

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But surveys of those living in the dorms indicated lower satisfaction in every aspect except service. The major factor that received the lowest drop was food quality.

“There is a big difference between Sodexo’s food in Shepherd Union and Wildcat Village,” said David Bigelow, a sophomore living at Wildcat Village. “There aren’t any generic dining options for the dining services like Einstein Bros. Bagels, and the food provided doesn’t taste as good because of how the food is made.”

Sodexo beat Chartwells and AVI Foodsystems by more than 200 votes during a state-run bidding process. The committee for the bid was formed from indigenous faculty, administrators and students, who were all able to vote on the company that sent in a proposal for the contract, according to Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Brett Perozzi.

The results of this process surprised Weber State students like Carter Smith, a senior living in Wildcat Village,

“I can’t believe that they (Sodexo) were able to beat two other companies,” Smith said. “I didn’t even know who the other companies were, but I know about Sodexo being the food company at Weber because of the previous contract.”

However, the results of the bid did not surprise faculty members like Shepherd Union Director Molly Ward.

“It’s hard for other companies to compete with another who has partnered with us before,” Ward said. “They understand Weber’s needs better.”

Compared to the University of Utah, Weber State is smaller in regard to student body size. Weber needs fewer supplies for the retail locations and a way to feed students who live on campus.

“We wanted a financially sound model that fits the needs of a smaller campus and still have a good deal, accommodate changes with chain brands and supply food trucks on campus,” Ward said.

Perozzi also wasn’t surprised Sodexo beat the competition.

“All the companies are great companies,” Perozzi said. “However, Sodexo was unique as they have plans to refresh the facilities every year to accommodate the students’ needs.”

Students struggle to find a way to give Sodexo feedback to improve their customer service, food preparation and presentation. Their comments could bring in different retail stores for the facility refreshment.

“The only place that I know of to give feedback is telling the workers directly and writing my comments on the feedback box in Stewart Wasatch Hall, where the dining services are held,” said Micah Van Sickle, a resident assistant in Wildcat Village.

Alford said Sodexo is developing what the company calls “the Bite app,” which would allow students to give feedback on their dining experience in Shepherd Union and in Wildcat Village. The company is also trying to promote the website found in Weber’s dining plans.

“We want students to know that we need specific feedback, like if a pizza is too salty, to improve the meals and their dining experience,” Alford said. “We want students to feel like they are heard, so they are free to drop in our offices located in Shepherd Union near the ballrooms.”

Sodexo’s team at WSU is made up of community members who provide financial aid, such as the Resident Assistant scholarship, hire on-campus jobs and give earned funds back to the university.

“We would earn pennies at times, but we want students to know that we do care about them and it is not about the money for us,” Alford said. “We might not always be perfect, but we will sure try with the help of (students’) feedback and encourage them to leave their criticism.”

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Bigelow is one Wildcat Village resident who acknowledges Sodexo is willing to receive feedback.

“The food quality was better than last year because (Sodexo workers) are spending more time listening to what foods are too salty, not seasoned enough, and more,” Bigelow said.

Smith agreed Sodexo employees would go out of their way to make sure they’re having a good meal at the dining halls and ask if they could improve a dish for the next day.

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Sodexo has plans to improve their relationship with students by providing more options for students to give feedback, hosting food events like live-cooking and cook-offs between executive chefs and continuously giving back to the community and Weber.

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