Sodexo as a business

By Shane Emaus

“I can’t believe I have to eat this every day.”

“I pay $8 a meal for this?”

“Baked Captain Crunch isn’t dessert.”

I have muttered all three of these statements regarding the company that provides our food service here on campus.

It’s no secret that the attitude toward Sodexo is generally negative around campus.

However, I’m writing this article to make a case for students to have a more sympathetic viewpoint toward the people who work hard to provide us with quality meals almost each and every day.

Some people may wonder why Sodexo doesn’t constantly offer us five-star meals on a daily basis. To understand the reason for this, one has to understand the difference between the type of business that Sodexo runs and the type of business that a typical restaurant runs.

A restaurant is able to charge its customers after they order using food prices that are calculated based on the cost of ingredients, labor and miscellaneous other expenses that went into the meal.

This ensures that, as long as the restaurant has enough customers to cover their fixed costs, the restaurant comes out at a profit. Sodexo, on the other hand, runs its business at Olivet largely through a buffet-style food service.

Students pay for all their meals up front, and since they utilize the buffet-style meals, Sodexo can’t cap the amount we consume at the exact point when the company starts to lose money.

In order for Sodexo to ensure that they simply break even, they have to take a number of factors into account.

First, they have to provide students with nutritious, high quality and a variety of foods. At the same time, they have to provide us with food that doesn’t draw so much demand that it causes them to lose money.

I am on the food service committee here at Olivet. During one meeting, Sodexo’s new general manager gave an example of a situation where a decision to change something ended up costing the company a significant amount of money.

For example, when they decided to change the type of bread served in the sandwich line, Sodexo lost more than $400 in a single day. If they had stayed with the original bread, they would have at least broken even.

In other words, it doesn’t make financial sense for Sodexo to have its employees use organic cage-free large eggs to make every single omelet, because they would undoubtedly lose money due to the nature of the business.

Now, I am not citing the bread example to justify poor food quality. Actually, I know for a fact that Sodexo’s leaders and managers spend countless hours coming up with new ideas to provide students with the best possible food here on campus.

They are receptive to our ideas as well. A number of changes have taken place since the start of the school year, including a new salad bar setup, new stir-fry options, healthier main-line options, a restored ice cream machine, phenomenal curly fries and sweet potato fries in Red Room, new flatbread pizzas in the retail stores, a new variety of items in Nesbitt, as well as chicken nuggets every single Friday.

Sodexo isn’t perfect. Everyone has had a bad experience with the food service here in one way or another. But it’s important to understand Sodexo is a business, and they are doing their absolute best to provide us with quality meals.

Consider the following: We have the biggest dining room with the largest variety of foods out of any of the Nazarene universities, two great coffee shops that are cheaper than Starbucks in the center of our campus, a quality to-go option in Nesbitt, and subs in Tiger Den that can stand toe-to-toe with Subway any day.

We really do have a good thing going here, and under the leadership of new general manager Jeff Hilligoss, I can assure you that things are only getting better.

Most of the changes I listed have come as a result of our food service committee feedback. If you have any suggestions you would like me to relay to Sodexo management, send me an e-mail, because they do listen.

Shane Emaus is a senior double majoring in accounting and economics/finance and is the VP of Finance of the Associated Student Council. He can be reached at

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