Campus to Make Switch to University-Managed Food Service

Students pick up food at the Bistro in the Segundo Dining Commons.
Students pick up food at the Bistro in the Segundo Dining Commons. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • Change will affect residential and retail dining, plus catering
  • UC Davis-employed staff will have better path for career advancement
  • Campus will join other UCs in strategic sourcing for cost savings

UC Davis is preparing for an exciting new era in campus food service, by deciding to install university management in place of longtime vendor Sodexo.

The switchover is planned during the 2016-17 academic year, but no date has been set. The change would affect residential dining, the Silo Union and other retail locations around the Davis campus, and University Catering. (The ASUCD runs the Coffee House, and that will not change.)

Sodexo has held the UC Davis food service contract for 46 years. The most recent deal, worth about $34 million for one year, is set to expire on June 30; UC Davis and Sodexo representatives are due to meet in early June to discuss an extension that would run until the switchover takes effect.

The decision came after consultation with campus leadership, said Emily Galindo, associate vice chancellor of Student Affairs and executive director of Student Housing, which administers the contract. She and her team have been studying the transition for months.

“We’ve had a good relationship with Sodexo,” she told Dateline UC Davis. “But we’ve reached the point where we see a great deal of opportunity for our students and other customers and for UC Davis as a whole in doing it ourselves.”

Those opportunities include:

  • Career advancement paths for Dining Services staff.
  • “Local” control over retail choices at the Silo and elsewhere.
  • An expanded partnership with the Coffee House, allowing for more CoHo operations around the campus.
  • Cost savings through UC’s procurement system, which already works with the seven other UCs that run their own food services.

In a 2015 national ranking based on meal plan cost and diners’ opinions, UC Davis placed in the top 10 for Best Campus Food among 1,175 colleges — and Galindo said she expects UC Davis will continue the same high quality food service, including its emphasis on sustainable practices, healthy food options, and variety of menus and selection.

Staff already work for UC Davis

While Sodexo provides management personnel, UC Davis has employed the Dining Services staff since 2009. “We will work to enhance opportunities for these employees while we increase services to the campus,” Galindo said. The staff count during the regular school year is about 790, including some 570 student workers.

A letter went out last week notifying staff of the pending transition. Galindo said more specific information will be presented at a number of open forums in September, and that employees will have the opportunity to ask questions at those forums.

Galindo acknowledged the expertise and success that Sodexo brought to campus food service, but said, “We are excited about the possibilities as we move to a new operating model.”

She highlighted UC’s strategic sourcing initiatives that she said put UC Davis in a position to take more direct responsibility for the campus food supply.

And she cited “stronger career paths for our dining employees who are interested in upward mobility within the campus.” Such mobility is stymied now by the fact the Dining Services staff works for UC Davis, while Sodexo employs the managers.

The transition

Here’s what’s involved in the transition:

  • Resident Dining — Dining commons in the Segundo, Tercero and Cuarto housing areas, serving 55,000 meals weekly; and convenience stores in each housing area.
  • Retail Dining — Carl’s Jr., Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and other outlets inside the Silo Union, and the Star Ginger food truck outside the Silo; the Gunrock Pub (Silo); Scrubs café (Health Sciences District; Starbucks at the ARC; and the Biobrew and King Hall coffee stands.
  • University Catering — It has been handling about 3,400 events annually in recent years.

Kraig Brady, director of Hospitality and Dining Services, a unit of Student Housing, will lead the new management team. He’s also joining Galindo and project analyst Stephanie Hartfield in regular meetings with campus partners to ensure a smooth transition. Along the way, the team will organize opportunities for input from the campus community.

For more information, contact Kraig Brady by telephone, (530) 752-6361, or email.

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