Sodexo, California Lutheran University’s food service, has extended their on-campus contract until 2025.
“In order to get the Habit [Burger Grill], we actually agreed to an automatic renewal until May 31, 2025,” said Clinton Oie, the director of auxiliaries and liaison between the university and Sodexo.
Oie said the contract between Sodexo and the university is usually a three-year agreement. The Habit was specifically selected to meet the needs of the students and is supposed to open in the fall. It will be another licensed store Sodexo operates in addition to Jamba Juice and Starbucks.
When the popularity of Centrum declined after Ullman Dining opened, a survey was released about three years ago to find out where employees and students were eating off campus, Oie said.
The top three answers of what people were eating were chicken, burgers and sushi.
Sodexo suggested the Habit because they are a local company and In-N-Out does not usually license stores through universities.
“It seemed like a really good fit and it has a much more expansive menu, since students are always talking about options,” Oie said.
In addition to this contract renewal, there is another agreement called the Sodexo amendment. This agreement deals with rate negotiation and hours of operation. It will be effective in August, Oie said.
The amendment helps determine meal plan rates, catering prices and more, Oie said.
Sodexo’s partnership with the school does not end in the summer. The current rates end at the end of summer and the new rates begin for the new school year.
Sodexo has been the main food service on campus since August 1998.
If the school does not renew a contract with Sodexo, companies will want to bid for an agreement with the university because once they are in, they will have a lengthy contract.
Oie said what typically happens is companies will “promise the world, then… under-deliver.”
“The best thing to do is work with the vendor you already have, unless it’s completely, utterly broken, like food doesn’t show up…and work contractually with them to improve service,” Oie said. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve had focus groups and Sodexo has had a student culinary council, and some of the main changes students have seen…have come through those focus groups.”
Some of the changes include more gluten free options in Ullman Commons. The changes stem from feedback.
Stetson Stallworth, who is an out-of-state student, said he appreciates Sodexo. His previous college, Adams State University, also had Sodexo, but Stallworth said the service was not up to par and the choices were “slim and far between.”
“Everyone complains about the [cafeteria] here, but I love it, because there are so many options,” Stallworth said.
Stallworth said he eats at Cal Lutheran’s food locations at least twice a day. He said the cafeteria on campus has better hours than the one at his last school.
“It’s a cafeteria. There are going to be good days, there are going to be bad days, but I think they are doing a good job,” Stallworth said, referring to Ullman Commons.
Stallworth, who is a football player, thinks there are healthy options for athletes, despite some overpriced items like sandwiches. Stallworth said “there is definitely room for growth.”
He said he likes the meal swipe program, but wants the leftover swipes to be transferred to the following semester. He suggested that if more options were added, they should be more spread out among the campus instead of just having most of the food locations centered on the spine.
Stallworth said he would like to see Mexican food as a possible added option on campus, but Oie said Sodexo is ultimately in control. Tyler Pon, a Cal Lutheran student, has worked for the Starbucks on campus since January.
“The experience so far is pretty good. The management has done a good job, co-workers are great,” Pon said.
Pon is from Northern California, so an on-campus job is convenient for him.
“I will admit, it has its ups and downs,” Oie said. “We are always trying to improve.”