By A.J.W. Ewers
While complaints about Sodexo have been common in the past, students will find their voices being heard and addressed at a more personal level if Brice Grudzien has his way.
Brice Grudzien, the new general manager of Sodexo at Olivet, hopes to foster a new image for his company this semester by listening to student opinions. To carry out his plan for change, Grudzien will draw on his more than 20 years of experience in the service industry.
Coming to Olivet was not part of Grudzien’s plan. He retired from his previous job with Kraft Foods last October where he worked in a management position.
He had not considered pursuing post-retirement employment until a friend of his called him.
The friend was the Sodexo regional manager for this region and asked if he would be interested in interviewing for the general manager position at Olivet.
Grudzien’s main priority while he is at Olivet is to listen to student concerns. He says that he does this by making himself available to students as often as possible.
“I am going to listen to your problem and give you are reason why or why not we can address it,” Grudzien said. “I have to give you a reason why.”
“I have only been here 10 weeks, but I have already made minor changes. I don’t want to rush in and change everything right away.”
Concerns over Sodexo’s customer service and prices are not a new phenomenon among students at Olivet, and Sodexo’s financial models are not necessarily reflective of the on-site service received on campus.
According to Sodexo’s recently released 2012-2013 fiscal report, the corporation has begun to implement a sweeping cost-cutting initiative aimed to reduce operational costs for the company and raise company gains.
Though the company is streamlining its income tactics, the company is not struggling to stay out of the red. This past year, profits have fallen for the company by 16 percent.
While such a drop in profits may seem disastrous for Sodexo, the company still made $625 million in profits last year, according to the report.
While profits for Sodexo have dropped in the past fiscal year, corporate revenues are up. In North America alone, Sodexo posted nearly $9.3 billion in revenues, a 1.33 per- cent gain in the past year.
Not all of Sodexo’s profits are made by simply providing food services to college campuses; the profits the company collects are a result of its diverse business interests. According to the Sodexo website, the company has business footholds in providing nutritional services to corporations including health care settings, supporting and maintaining military operations, senior citizen care, prison settings, and sports and leisure settings.
The diverse operations of Sodexo Corporation have earned the company the prestige of being ranked in the Fortune Global 500. Sodexo, according to its 2012 fiscal rankings, is ranked 487th, only three below Nike.
Although the company is not struggling to stay afloat and has earned its place in Fortune’s Global 500 rankings, its performance has been considered mediocre at Olivet, in some students’ opinion.
Increasing food prices, poor food quality, and undesirable customer service are among some of the complaints from students. Senior Renee Runyan stated she is not impressed with the overpriced food when the quality of the food is low and the customer service leaves much to be desired.
Red Room has brought the ire of students in particular. Junior Skylar McCance said in one instance she waited nearly a half an hour to receive her order.
Senior Nicole Papineau also expressed her discontent with the irregular food portions received from the establishment.
“I do not think that what I am paying for is worth what I get,” junior Ellie Jolly said.
In the past, the administration has responded to students’ complaints by forming the Food Committee, which meets the last Friday of every month. The committee consists of students, the Sodexo head chef, and other Sodexo employees, according to a student food committee member. This committee, while solving minor issues, has not addressed some major student complaints.
Though complaints concerning Sodexo are prevalent among the student body, not all students view Sodexo in an undesirable light. Sophomore Chris Umphryes stated that while the Ludwig dining hall does not always serve the most desirable food, they do have to serve many students a day and serving desirable food in large amounts is not always easy.
Although Grudzien was hired to replace the former general manager who was moved to a different location, he is hoping to continue to address student concerns during his time here. According to Grudzien, he stays on the Ludwig Dining Hall main floor during meal times to listen to students. He also does some of his work in Common Grounds coffee shop to stay close to the students he serves.
Grudzien will not rush to make any major changes to Sodexo at Olivet, though. He wants to see how the system runs before he jumps in.
“I have only been here 10 weeks, but I have already made minor changes,” he said. “I don’t want to rush in and change everything right away.”
Olivet is not the only college campus in which Sodexo is working to address student concerns.
The State University of New York (New Paltz campus) has held open forums with Sodexo management to address issues that the students were having with the food service, according to an article in the campus newspaper, the New Paltz Oracle.
Students at Marquette University have also noticed an imbalance between the price of the food and the quality of the food received.
“Most students [at Marquette] agree that the quality of product served is inferior to that which can be purchased for less at local eating establishments,” wrote Jonathan Stepp, a Marquette student in an article published in the Marquette “Warrior.”
The GlimmerGlass recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the office of the Vice President of Finances, in order to access the contract between Olivet and Sodexo in hopes of better understanding established business standards between the two.
The request for the contract was declined on the grounds that the contract was only available to university trustees and administration and that such public transparency laws did not apply to the university.
Grudzien said he has made quite a few staffing changes in order to create the most efficient work environment.
“We must make change in order to grow,” he said.