Sodexo contract is to end, options explored

Eden Cohen, Managing Editor

Pitt-Johnstown administrators requested bids April 1 from five companies to provide campus food service.

The role is currently held by Sodexo, which has held the role for about 40 years, according to Sodexo general manager Victor Costlow.

The Sodexo contract expires in June, according to Finance and Administration Vice President Amy Buxbaum. Because of this, she said, university administrators have begun to explore options.

Sodexo executives, along with those from four other companies, have been invited to bid on a contract, Buxbaum said.

Costlow said contracts generally run for five or 10 years.

“All of the invited companies have significant portfolios of campus and university dining operations,” Buxbaum said.

Costlow said the bidding process is to validate costs. He said the university administrators’ decision will be made based on financial factors as well as other criteria they specified.

He said he was calculating costs to make a bid, and that he would figure out ways to be the most cost efficient for the university.

“I take great pride in working here,” he said. “I’m going to do everything in my power to stay.”

He said that, for him and many of his older employees, working here is important.

“We’re really dedicated to the university and the students,” he said. “The students’ voice is always the center of everything we do.”

He said he listens to students by attending Student Government Association meetings, having biweekly association Foods Committee meetings and conducting surveys.

Foods Committee chairperson Megan Taylor chose not to comment.

Costlow said survey results have improved recently, which he attributes to hiring two additional chefs.

In addition to being focused on excellence, he said, Sodexo is a leader in sustainability.

Employees buy locally and advocate for humane animal treatment and eggs laid by cage-free hens, he said.

Freshman Alexis Soilis said she wants Sodexo to stay because she doesn’t want Jazzman’s to leave. She said it could be replaced only by a Starbucks.

Freshman Helena Malyarsky said she would not want to see Brioche Dorée or Jazzman’s leave, and she would feel badly for the Sodexo employees if they were replaced.

However, both students said they are discontent with the cafeteria’s food. Soilis said she would want the cafeteria’s food to improve if Sodexo stays.

Buxbaum said students will be involved in the company-selection process but did not specify how.