New Sodexo management aims to please

The new semester has brought a new manager to Sodexo at Norwich University and three different management positions have been filled as Sodexo tries to improve dining operations and meet the needs of students.

Amelia Heidenrich was hired as the new general manager at NU Dining Services on Nov. 15, 2014. She has been in the food service industry for over 15 years and her job entails overseeing all operations, including retail, catering, and residential, Heidenrich explained.

There was an extensive search to hire the right person for this new position, according to Dave Magida, the chief administrative officer at Norwich.

Heidenrich seemed to be the best fit for the job and was appointed to take the place of the retiring general manager, said Magida.

Tim Bell, who has 16 years of naval service, took over as new residential dining manager on Jan. 5 this year. Bell explained that means he oversees the dining room: “I am strictly the residential dining manager, so anything you see out on the floor I’d be in charge of.”

Lisa Kennedy is the new operations manager, replacing Nora Heinsohn, who has retired, according to Heidenrich.

“We’ve added Bell because we see that we needed additional management help here to reach our customer’s needs,” she said.

The changes come as the most recent survey shows increased satisfaction with the job Sodexo is doing at the dining room in the Wise Center.

A total of 326 students responded to a survey taken last October. Overall, 55 percent said they were satisfied with Sodexo food and service, and 8 percent very satisfied; 29 percent said they were dissatisfied and 8 percent very dissatisfied.

Those figures were improved over a similar survey in the spring of 2014. Virtually all of the categories polled showed students were happier with the food quality, consistency, taste and appearance of the dishes.

The two lowest scores on the survey were for menu variety at each meal and value for the money. In all 49 percent of students said they were either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the value of the meals and 53 percent – the highest number – found fault with meal variety.

“We just reviewed the fall dining surveys from the students,” Heidenrich remarked. “The action plans we’ve made for this semester are based on those reviews from the students.”

Although management has changed with the hiring of three new managers, “Chef Rob Garcelon has been here for six years and we still have our catering manager, Mark Thompson, and he has been here for two or three years,” according to Heidenrich.

Heidenrich is aware that it is difficult to please the students with every meal. “We see that we get monotony,” Heidenrich said, “students get bored with the same thing.”

Sodexo is going to try to address that issue by adding two special events per week instead of two per month, and creating a chef throw-down during Mardi Gras, said Heidenrich.

There will also be surveys for students to take every semester on food service at Norwich. The surveys will be taken between February 9-15.

One of the other issues students have raised is about the serving sizes. Noted Alex MacMullen, a 20- year-old criminal justice major from Groveland, Mass., “The serving sizes tend to be small and in order to get more I have to finish what I have and come back.”

“It’s not fair for a small woman to get the same serving as me and then make me come back up when there could be potentially a huge line full of rooks.” MacMullen said. “It’s inconvenient to make people come all the way back up.”

Max Junkins a 19-year-old computer security and information assurance major from Annapolis, Md., agreed.“Serving sizes could be better. I understand Sodexo’s concerns about waste, but it is very inconvenient to get the same serving size as someone 30 pounds smaller than me.”

“Sodexo should also not focus on such fancy food that only five star restaurants can pull off,” Junkins said. “They should stick to the basics and master the easy things and stop overdoing it.”

The portion issue is something Sodexo is making every effort to address. As of Jan. 25, the Sodexo team changed the policy to allow students to take two portions their first time through the line.

According to Heidenrich, Sodexo’s concern has been with cutting down on waste. “We are looking at the size of the plate,” Heidenrich said. “It helps us know whether the serving size is too big or too small, and whether the student liked what we were serving.

As far as value, the price per day for a student’s meal at Sodexo is $14.05, which has been the same rate since last August, according to Heidenrich.

However, that cost only reflects some of the costs involved since NU also charges students to pay for equipment, repairs, maintenance and utilities at the Wise Campus Center, since it is a newly built facility, said Magida.

Students are welcome to apply for jobs at Sodexo. “We are always hiring,”according to Heidenrich. “We have 170 positions we fill and there is going to be some turnover when you have that many staff.”

Sodexo will be expanding on campus to operate a new cafe that will be included in the newly renovated Kreitzberg Library. The cafe will be owned by Norwich, but operated by Sodexo workers, according to Heidenrich.

More changes are likely as Sodexo seeks to address the findings of their surveys. “We are right now developing new meal plans based on student feedback,” Heidenrich said. “We know students have said they want more than just an unlimited meal plan.”

“We will be working on different meal plans for upper classmen,” according to Heidenrich, but she added that “the rooks will be required to be on the same meal plan they are on now.”

 

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