Last week Carleton’s Dining Task Force announced its recommendation that Bon Appétit replace Sodexho as the college’s dining services provider for the next five years. The contract will take effect on July 1, 2008. The selection of Bon Appétit rested on the company’s commitment to fresh, locally grown food sources, chef-driven menus, and a sense of alignment between Carleton’s values and Bon Appétit’s approach to food selection, preparation, and nutritional philosophy.
“The decision was made,” said Fred Rogers, Carleton’s Vice President, Treasurer, and co-chair of the Dining Task Force, “on the quality of the dining experience offered.” He added that “the task force did a remarkable job focusing on verifiable facts, not rumors, in making its selection,” dismissing the possibility that rising student displeasure with Sodexho in past years influenced the decision.The replacement of Sodexho with Bon Appétit will end a forty year relationship between Sodexho, Inc. and Carleton. Joe Winegardner, general manager of Sodexho at Carleton, who is often seen in East dining hall loading dirty trays onto the tray rack, commented that “I was very disappointed with the decision. My company has enjoyed a relationship of forty years with Carleton, and I personally have enjoyed my time here.” He also added that “I think the college performed a very thorough and fair bidding process.” Concerning the impetus for the switch, Winegardner posits that “the college was ready for a change, perhaps because of the duration of Sodexho’s relationship with the college.”
Despite his disappointment, Winegardner ensures that “I will do absolutely everything in my power to ensure a very smooth transition, because over the years I have come to have a great deal of respect for Carleton.” He insists that “I want to continue taking care of the Carleton community as they deserve to be taken care of. When we leave, we will leave knowing that we have taken care of the last guest we served in June.” Yet his primary concern remains for his staff, for whom he wants “the transition to be as seamless as possible.”
Bon Appétit will allow all members of the Operating Engineers union (OE) to continue working at Carleton, which includes all dining services staff with whom students typically interact, apart from cashiers and student workers. Bon Appétit will also employ a quantity of student employees similar to the quantity Sodexho currently employs.
Student reaction to the announcement ranged from indifference to excitement. “I didn't really think Sodexho was that bad,” said Zach Montes ’10. “I'm not sad to see it go or anything, but I doubt Bon Appétit will be that much better. I feel like people complain about the food because they have nothing better to complain about.”
Hannah Willard ‘10 voiced a similar opinion: “I also don't think Sodexho is that bad at all. People complain bitterly about it, but in all honesty it could be a whole lot worse. We have a lot of healthy options, and it's pretty easy to be a vegetarian and eat in the dining hall. I am looking forward to Bon Appetit, from the things I've heard about it, but I'm worried about the things we'll lose with Sodexho. Will we still be able to have Saturday Sunday bar? Will there still be cereal available at every meal? Sometimes I just have a craving for Toasty-Os….”
Sam Kanner ‘11 commented that “I'm hoping the snack bar might become more like Olaf's: better food for less.” However the change will have no impact on board or snack bar prices, which, according to the FAQs web page about the transition, are determined solely by “inflation and other economic pressures.”
The decision was made after nearly seven months of deliberation by the Dining Task Force, which was chaired by Vice President and Treasurer Rogers and Dean of Students Hudlin Wagner. The committee, which consisted of thirteen members in total, among whom were students Vera Chang ’09, Leah Greenberg ’08, Amanda Hess ’08, and Evan Rowe ’09, initially solicited qualifications from fourteen companies, which number they eventually narrowed to four, and finally to two finalists: Sodexho and Bon Appétit. According to the bulletin posted by the Task Force, “the research included visits by Task Force members to see these vendors at multiple campuses around the country and in-depth interviews on the Carleton campus with the finalists.” The committee, according to Rogers, may help with the transition, after which it will dissolve.
For more information, see the information pages posted to the web by Dining Services. They can be found at http://go.carleton.edu/dining.