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Food service changes cause student outcry

Submitted by Ricky Harris on February 17, 2012 – 1:15 pm2 Comments

Sodexo employee Tony Brooks serves Breanna Moses as Marykate Williams, freshman biology, waits in line. Some students have been outraged by recent changes and taken their grievances to Facebook. Photo by Toby Head

A Facebook group was recently formed by UALR students to voice concerns over Sodexo food services, specifically the Diamond Café, and Sodexo management wants students to know that they are listening.

The group, UALR Movement For Better Sodexo Food, was created Feb. 1 by Robert Meyer, senior business major. “I have started this group [for students to] discuss issues and ideas,” Meyer said.

In the first group post, Meyer said that Sodexo began serving less food at a lower quality to students this semester. This was just one of the many complaints voiced on the group since its creation.

Curtis Williams, Sodexo General Manager, said that while the food service provider is monitoring the group, anyone who has a question, comment or concern should bring it to his attention or that of a supervisor.

In response to Meyer’s accusation that less food was being served, Williams said that the portion sizes have not changed. “If a customer feels that the portion size is not adequate they may request more,” Williams said. “And if for any reason they are not satisfied, they should request to speak to a supervisor or manager.

But students have complained that when they have asked for things like an extra tomato, employees have said they aren’t supposed to give more.

Williams stressed that his goal and that of his team is to offer the best service possible.

“Anytime a customer feels that they have not received the best service possible they should bring it to the attention of management,” Williams said. “This will ensure that all concerns are addressed properly and immediately.”

Of the students who have complained on the group, Williams said that he and his team have spoken to a few of them.

Various other issues were mentioned specifically on the group’s page. One of those was the fact that the large 32 oz. drinking cups are no longer offered in the Diamond Café. They were originally offered because patrons are not allowed to re-enter the café after they exit, preventing someone from getting refills. Williams said that usage of both the large cups and the smaller 20 oz. cups was monitored last semester and showed that the smaller cups were used more. He also said that using only the smaller cups helps deal with Sodexo’s limited storage space.

Concerning the disappearance of cheese from the salad bar – or, at times, portioning of the cheese – Williams said that cheese is available upon request.

Another student complained that on the evening of Feb. 3, the café was out of hamburgers and cheeseburgers at 6:20 p.m., so he had to eat a “bread/cheese sandwich.” Williams responded to this complaint by saying, “We utilize progressive cooking at the grill as much as possible and burgers are cooked to order after 6 p.m.”

Confronting complaints that it is hard for a vegetarian to have a positive experience with the Diamond Café, Williams said, “We offer a vegetarian entrée daily, along with vegetables (sides) at the Cuisines station. We also offer vegetarian options at the grill, deli, pizza station and we have the salad bar.”

Omelet cook speed was an issue that was confronted by another member of the group. Various students have complained that the cook speed – one omelet at a time – is not adequate. Williams said that he will have the head chef for the Diamond Café, Chef Sebastian, reevaluate the omelet cooking station.

Some students have also complained about bad attitudes and rude behavior from employees in the Diamond Café. Williams responded by saying, “If and when this type of behavior occurs, it should be brought to the attention of management to address immediately.”

Williams said that if someone doesn’t want to confront a situation in person, they can visit ualrdining.com where a link is located for patrons to send comments and complaints. He also said that there is a comment box located inside the Diamond Café.

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