Summary of the Contract Extension with Sodexo
Sept. 22, 2020
Due to the pandemic, last Spring the process for selecting a food service vendor was suspended. The overarching consideration was the importance of business continuity in our dining operation through an anticipated prolonged period of deep uncertainty. Instead, Sodexo will continue to operate as Brandeis' food service vendor under a two-year contract extension, recently negotiated to significantly increase the University’s oversight of the operational and financial performance of Dining Services on our campus. The Brandeis community can expect to see a number of improvements this Fall that were identified as priorities through community input during last year’s Dining RFP process. The remainder of this message outlines those improvements in food options, technology, operations, and staffing.
The Brandeis community resoundingly requested more food choices at both dining halls to meet the need of dietary restrictions and cultural diversity. Sodexo is offering several new and enhanced food platforms this semester:
- C-Store at The Stein. The Stein will act as an extension of the Hoot C-Store with snacks and grab-and-go items available. Many items offered are sourced from local business vendors such as Russo’s Produce in Watertown, MA.
- Grocery2Go. To supplement the items available for sale at the C-store, on-line orders can be placed. The inventory includes beverages, produce, snacks, and basics like bread, cereal, and milk.
- Lemongrass Kitchen. Featuring authentic Southeast Asian cuisine from celebrity chef and cookbook author Mai Pham of the acclaimed California-based Lemongrass Kitchen and Star Ginger restaurants.
- Rustic Roots. This platform provides a dining experience that celebrates whole, plant-based foods and aromatic flavors with recipes that substitute animal protein with nutrient-dense plant alternatives, embracing globally diverse recipes that promote health and the environment.
- Sal’s Pizza. This popular regional business offers pizza on a food truck and also at the Stein.
- Simple Servings. While not a new platform, this offering has been expanded and made more prominent at both dining halls. Everything is prepared without the top food allergens including milk, eggs, soy, wheat, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, and gluten.
- Tres Habaneros. Offered in the Upper Usdan Food Court, this platform brings fast casual Mexican fare to campus.
New technology is making it easier to be served in the dining halls and retail venues like Einstein’s Bagels, which is critical to reducing the number of touchpoints during the pandemic but will continue to offer convenience in the future.
- Digital signage has been added to the Usdan and Sherman servery areas to highlight food offerings at the various platforms.
- Sodexo launched the Bite Universities app on campus – a robust mobile ordering application for food and drink orders at eight retail locations across campus including Einstein’s and Dunkin'. Students can also view menus at both dining halls through the app.
- The Get myID app, through CBORD, has allowed our students to "swipe into" the dining halls with a contactless experience. A student can pull up a QR code on their phone and no longer needs to hand an ID card to a cashier. A large number of students have embraced the new technology and are helping to minimize risk to Dining staff and each other.
Negotiating a new contract presented the opportunity to shape Brandeis’ relationship with Sodexo in ways that reflect the interests of the campus community. For example, catering is no longer limited to Sodexo so that there can be more flexibility in event planning. Pricing was also reduced by 30% on Block Plans designed for on-campus students living in apartment-style residential halls, thus creating parity in the cost per meal with the traditional residence hall meal plans.
The new contract allows the University to more closely monitor Sodexo’s operational and financial performance, thereby establishing a process for accountability in support of successful outcomes that benefit us all. There will be new monthly evaluations of cleanliness/sanitation, sustainability, and catering by the relevant unit leaders in Campus Operations. The surveys of student to gauge satisfaction with campus dining each semester will continue. Lastly, an internal auditing team will review financial statements on a monthly basis to ensure costs are reasonable and appropriately tracked.
There have also been important staffing changes, starting with our new resident district manager Mike Reilly, who now oversees the 200-person operation at Brandeis. Two positions that had previously been part time are now full time -- the dietician and the marketing/communications specialist – so that we no longer share these key services with other institutions. Lastly, Brandeis will be hiring a food “auditor” to regularly assess the accuracy of food labels, particularly with regard to allergen ingredients