On June 30, the contract between Babson and Sodexo, the College’s food provider, expires. However, this year, for the first time since Sodexo came to campus, Babson has decided not to renew the contract right away. Instead, it has hired an independent consultant to find actual reasons behind students’ dissatisfaction with dining services and begun a bidding process for new catering companies. This news has caused both negative and positive emotions among students, and action from Student Government Association. I decided to research the subject from a third party perspective and share the information I found.
For more than 20 years, Sodexo has catered Babson and Olin College students and provided the majority of food options on our campuses. However, over the past couple of years, Trim Dining Hall at Babson has started to gain a mixed reputation. Asking students their opinion on Trim, the most popular answer I received was “sometimes there is no food.” Think about it.
As Trim is considered to the main dining location on campus, this particular response from the student body should be extremely alarming. Research from college. niche.com contains data on all colleges in the United States, and also includes rating on dining services. Among Boston area colleges and universities, Babson is ranked 28th in food catering, which is a relatively low score for a school with such a big reputation. The three leaders are UMass Amherst with Pioneer Valley catering, Boston University with Aramark, and Tufts with Corporate Chefs, all of which are big schools in big cities. As you see, Sodexo does not cater any of these schools.
Is there a reason why large Massachusetts colleges do not choose Sodexo as their food provider? My on-campus research mainly consisted of talking to people. I learned that SGA is relatively open in discussing the bidding process and also very involved in the final decision process itself. They constructed focus groups of Babson students and invited an independent consultant who very precisely asked each participant’s opinion on dining options. From the group that I was in, the comments were not positive but very reasonable and valid. They did not articulate anything extraordinary for Trim, but instead expressed a need for basic, consistent, and eatable options like good rice and chicken. In addition, many voiced concerns regarding the quality of coffee in both Trim and Olin Graduate School.
On the other hand, students seemed completely satisfied with Reynolds and Olin College food services, both of which are also served by Sodexo. So, should we switch or not?
Let’s look at the outcomes of both of these decisions first.
- Something new. Babson had Sodexo more than 25 years now, so a new catering company will definitely freshen up our small campus and give students new experiences.
- I’m kind of broke. There is a possibility that the costs of the meal plans will go down when the provider comes in, but actually no one knows about that.
- WasSub? If Sodexo leaves, we all should consider associated changes in a big picture. Of course Trim will change, but Reynolds will change too. According to Sodexo monthly surveys and focus groups constructed by SGA, Babson students are very happy with the food quality in Reynolds. Grill 155 and everyone’s favorite Sub station recently got supported with customizable noodles and healthy salads stations. However, if Sodexo changes, we all most definitely can forget about subs too.
- Don’t leave me, Olin. Babson students love Olin dining hall. And, because Olin is also served by Sodexo, we can have some free swipes there. Moreover, as a lot of Olin students take classes at Babson and vice versa, the fact that they we can also eat in each other’s colleges increases convenience and saves time. Therefore, changing Sodexo will lead not only to an inability to exchange meals in Olin, but also to the disruption of communication between us and Olin students.
One can add so many things to these list. But I personally I think that, even if we switch, nothing will change in Trim itself, besides name of company and costs. So, maybe instead of taking a risk for Continued from page one. something new, we all should try to work on improving Sodexo.
Sodexo wants to hear from students and Trim management is willing to follow up on their feedback. For example, did you know that you can fill in a form to arrange a menu for one of the Trim stations for a whole day? Or that you can even meet with one of the chefs to show them the recipe of a dish you would like to be cooked for your special or national holiday? These are just two surprising facts I found out about Trim. They both sound pretty cool for me, because, by the end of the day, I am also a student here, who is also demanding some improvements in Babson dining services