Sodexo strives to improve dining experience for Whitworth students

By Ani Purohith, 1/25/17

Most students living on Whitworth’s campus depend on Sodexo to provide healthy, flavorsome meals.

If you are a Whitworth student living on campus, Sodexo Food Services is the primary means for nourishment.

Since it became the food provider for Whitworth University in 2011, Sodexo has made it its goal to deliver healthy and satisfying meals for its diners.

Located in the Hixson Union Building (HUB), Sodexo’s food court offers a variety of foods in a “buffet” style, including salad, sandwich, and pizza bars. Diners seeking diversity in their food can visit the Global Connections area, which features food from around the world.

“I thought the food was surprisingly good,” Northwest Christian High School senior Micah Henry said. Henry visited Sodexo as part of a prospective student visit. “I was warned by my older siblings that the food at colleges are usually not good, but I enjoyed whatever I ate while visiting Whitworth.”

Henry’s satisfaction is not unusual; according to a survey conducted during the fall semester, 91 percent of respondents said that they were satisfied with the food.

Survey results from the fall semester of 2016 show that Sodexo is more favorable to students in many categories in comparison with the national average.

Sodexo’s personalized approach

Newly added signs help diners identify foods which do not contain gluten or any animal products.

In addition to making a variety of foods, Sodexo also seeks to make its diners feel like they are cared for.

This year, Sodexo added signs noting foods that were gluten-free on the counters in order to accommodate those who are practicing a gluten-free diet. These signs are also for the safety of those who have celiac disease and other gluten-intolerant disorders. In addition to these, signs for foods that are vegan/vegetarian have also been installed for the diners who do not eat animal products.

“I was very happy when they started displaying which foods are gluten-free,” says Mateo Reynoso, a freshman student who is on a gluten-free diet. “It is comforting to know that people are looking out for me and want to make things easier for me.”

The employees of Sodexo play a crucial role in food preparation, service, and diner satisfaction.

The employees of Sodexo also make it a point to interact with diners in order to assess the quality and service of the food provided.

“I am pretty good about asking the students what they would like want to see, what do they want to see changed, and how they are liking the food,” says Dana Josephson, a Sodexo cook who has worked at Whitworth for five years. Josephson says this personalized and active approach has directly led to increased satisfaction among students.

Delivering food that is healthy is a significant part of Sodexo’s mission; this means constantly evolving the nutrient balance of the food to preserve a healthful diet.

“We are definitely trying some new things,” Josephson says. “One big thing we have tried to do this year is to limit the amount of salt we put into our dishes.”

Sodexo also offers tailored meals for anyone who has specific dietary needs.

“I had a health issue and my doctor told me to increase my protein intake by a lot,” freshman Mitch Carbon said. “I got in touch with [Sodexo] and they had custom-made meals that had the required amount of protein for me to pick up.”

The Whitworthian published an article illuminating the many ways that Sodexo cares for students at Whitworth, including its flexibility in accommodating students with dietary restrictions.

“I didn’t have to worry if I was getting enough protein and it really put my mind at ease; I was able to focus more on my studies as well,” Carbon said.

Accommodation arrangements can be made by contacting Executive Chef Timothy Grayson at timothy.grayson@sodexo.com. Sodexo has a Whitworth Facebook page that lets people know about special meals and various events that are taking place.

Emphasis on cultural events and activities

The annual International Festival, one of the many events that Sodexo organizes, gives opportunities for the diverse sharing of culture.

In an effort to make dining more exciting, Sodexo frequently looks for opportunities to connect with diners through innovative events.

On April 10, 2016 Sodexo hosted a cooking competition in its dining hall, providing students with kitchen space, cooking utensils, and serving dishes.

Sodexo also organizes various culture-themed dinners for various occasions including Thanksgiving, Oktoberfest, and Yom Kippur.

Another interactive tool that Sodexo uses to enhance its dining experience is to hold activities in the food court such as cake walks, gingerbread house decorating competitions, and raffles.

The importance of going beyond

Despite having a diverse range of food choices, as well as numerous out-of-the-box tools that it employs to have a strong dining experience, Sodexo continually desires to improve their patrons’ experience and is always seeking feedback on how to do this.

To achieve this, a comment box was installed at the entrance of the dining hall in which students can voice their opinion about the food service. Student feedback is very welcome and is an important element of Sodexo’s mission on Whitworth’s campus. Feedback can also be done online.