Flood outlines relationship between Sodexo and Grossmont College

Grossmont VP Tim Flood displays cover of Sodexo action plan

William Dudley

GROSSMONT COLLEGE — What is the relationship between Sodexo and Grossmont College?  As controversy swirled on campus about the quality of Sodexo’s service, the man in charge of food on campus, Tim Flood, Grossmont’s Vice President for Administrative Services, graciously took a few minutes to answer some questions

Flood chairs the Food Service Advisory Committee that meets periodically to discuss food-related issues. 

He said that Sodexo is the latest on a long line of private vendors. Flood recalled Aeromark as the food vendor when he started at Grossmont a decade ago. That was followed by Fresh ‘n Natural, Aztec Shops, and finally Sodexo.

The process of selecting a food vendor is an exhaustive one.  The GCCCD calls for private companies to submit bids (RFPs), which are then reviewed by the district. A committee of staff, faculty and students do taste tests, visit other colleges or sites the vendor serves, all to make a recommendation for whom to select. Then the district has to negotiate the contract itself. The process can take months.

Sales are significantly down from last year. Flood said that the disruption caused by construction undoubtedly has a role. He also said sales last year may have been abnormally  high because faculty and staff did not park on campus at all (during parking lot construction) and were shuttled in instead, leaving them even more “trapped” on campus and dependent on Sodexo for lunch. Grossmont is affected by this because Grossmont College makes money off of Sodexo food sales. According to the current contract, the first half million in “net sales” that Sodexo earns in a year is theirs to keep. Grossmont gets a 6 percent commission, or $30,000, on the next half million, and a 7 percent commission, or $35,000, for the following half million.

Sodexo’s current contract expires on January 1, 2011. This is because Sodexo’s 2008 contract ran for three  years with two one-year extensions.

But don’t expect Sodexo to go anytime soon. Renewal is pretty much a done deal. Not only is it too late to start the long process of soliciting and reviewing new proposals, but potential vendors would be reluctant to submit bids at all given the current construction-related situation at Grossmont, at least not until the promised shiny new student cafeteria facility is up and running 

But also don’t expect Sodexo to sit and do nothing. Flood said he was in ongoing communication with Sodexo and making requests for changes on food lines, food types, and services. He also said that Sodexo was continually doing market research, taste testings, and other steps to improve its service, as well as providing “a variety of services“ at “different price points.” While telling me this Flood picked up a glossy spiral-bound book and started looking through it. What was that, I asked.

I thus discovered that Sodexo has produced an Action  and Communication Plan Draft Document!  It consists of twenty or so colorful pages of specific steps and actions and plans to address concerns raised about Sodexo food and service, a schedule when the steps would be completed, and the designation of a person responsible for implementing them. Subsections I was able to spot included “marketing and promotions” and creating exceptional student services.” 

The idea, according to Flood, was to create “an accountability statement” that will help ensure that Grossmont and Sodexo  “will do the things that we said we will do.” The timeline for action actually begins now, mid-October 2010.  I asked if I could see the book, and found out that we will all be able to peruse the exciting Action and Communication Plan….eventuallyIt is now a work-in-progress and thus still top secret. The next step will be a meeting among Flood, Grossmont College President Sunny Cooke, Rick Nargi, Sodexo district manager, and Kerwin Higashi, Sodexo vice president, to discuss Grossmont’s suggested revisions to Sodexo’s plan. After changes are all agreed upon, it will then be rolled out sometime before next year to the Food Services Advisory Committee and the campus community.

Until then, we will just have to wait.

Dudley is a student in Media Comm 132.