Marletto’s restaurants, Far East Fusion replaced by August

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The restaurants in Marletto’s and Far East Fusion will be gone by August as Webster’s food service company, Sodexo, is leaving.

Sodexo has been Webster’s provider for the past 25 years. According to Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students John Buck, Sodexo is a company that wants to focus on larger clients and the company is not satisfied with their performance at Webster. 

“It came down to we were an underperforming client,” Buck said. “They had to jettison not just us, but other schools as well that were not performing up to what Sodexo wanted. It’s sort of like you’re dating and it’s time to move on. It’s not you, it’s us. It’s mutually understood that this is the best thing to do. It doesn’t really matter who says ‘we’re breaking up with you.’ We’re separating and it’s probably a good thing for both of us.”

In March, Webster put out a request for proposal (RFP) and has “four or five” providers interested in running the food services on campus. Buck said if Webster and Sodexo could have had this conversation earlier, the school would be in a better position with the RFP process.

All of the restaurants in Marletto’s will be replaced by August. Contributed by Webster University

Webster’s dining includes three places in the University Center, four in Marletto’s, a coffee shop in the library and a grab and go store in the East Academic Building. Two places in the UC—Freshens and WOW Cafe—are national brands, so Webster will be keeping them. Far East Fusion and the places in Marletto’s are under Sodexo, so they will be replaced by August. 

“We’re gonna figure out what the hell we put in that spot,” Buck said. “Do we have plans down the road to renovate that area and change that up? We could choose to do that over the course of several semesters.”

The coffee shop—Proudly Serving Starbucks—will also stay because of its performance. 

“That place is always busy,” Buck said. “The coffee shop is just doing very well. We want to keep that. We’ve told people with the RFP that we want to keep the coffee shop.”

Buck believes Webster will become more automated, gaining a new app with the ability to order ahead and the potential for self checkout features in the future.

Webster currently has four meal plans, but by August, that number may drop to three.

“From a business point of view, you could argue that [four is] too many for a campus this size, it spreads the dollars too far,” Buck said. “So, what if we went from four to three? What does that mean for us? That means that when people get back, we’re going to say, ‘sorry, we dropped this meal plan you signed up for earlier, pick one of these other three.’”

“We’re gonna have the Dining Advisory Board that will be part of a committee that will meet with vendors to turn in a proposal. And we’ll just scrape together as much as we can to get student feedback. That’s why the timing of this is really difficult, we’re going to miss out on that. Not many folks are going to be on campus during the [summer] break.”

 Because of the tight timeline, every change might not be completed by fall.

“If we want to renovate something, it could be that we come back in August and say ‘These are new, but we’re moving in this direction.’ We’ll get as much as we can, but it will be incomplete. I promise you that. It will be a process that may have a bigger impact over the course of next year.”

The employees at the restaurants are unionized as a group with Sodexo, but Buck said that the more employees they can keep, the better. 

“This is kind of a weird campus if you don’t know your way around,” Buck said. “[Current employees] know how to get every truck, every load of food from point A to point B anywhere on this campus. They know the students and the students know them and they hang out. I think largely if we can get a lot of these folks to stick with a new vendor that would be a win-win.”

The decision comes after freshman Kolten Wiegers was served raw chicken from Marletto’s. Wiegers said he thinks the change will be positive.

“The variety of the food served is neat and good for students to diversify their palette and there are many polite employees that seem to genuinely care for students outside of just serving food, but the raw chicken I was served made me carefully check my food,” Wiegers said. 

The growing number of international students on campus is a big part of planning the food service on campus in the future.

“International students like variety, and sometimes they’re not quite as interested in the meat and potatoes Midwestern meals. A lot of international students that I interact with have shared with me that they like food from their home country, but a lot of international students have a global palate. Providing an array of choices beyond American cuisine is important.”

Webster hopes to have a vendor chosen by the end of May and has already had three food service companies on campus to tour. Marletto’s and Far East Fusion will be debranded, rebranded and have staff trained by the beginning of August.  

“We’re going to have to really fast track and move through quickly so that when we open up on August 19 we are ready,” Buck said. “So, it’s going to be a sprint. It’s going to be a marathon run as a sprint.”

 

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Chloe Sapp
Staff Writer | + posts

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