UWO dining may introduce new options

Jessica Zemlicka

According to UW Oshkosh dining officials, student feedback has prompted Sodexo and the University to look at possible changes to UWO’s dining options. Assistant Director for Dining Operations Marty Strand said UWO dining has gathered data from campus community members and current millennial dining trends in America. “This has led to the decision to focus on Mexican and Asian cuisines offering higher quality options,” Strand said. “Based on the survey data, these segments appear to be underserved with our current offerings.” According to Dining Director Randy Hedge, there was a Taste of Nations event in Reeve Memorial Union on April 21 that provided University Dining with student feedback. “Students responded favorably to the Mexican [cuisine],” Hedge said. “Feedback also revealed that in the Asian concept, we may need to find more traditional Asian, rather than the upscale Asian sandwiches and soups in the Star Ginger format.” Strand said the proposed budget cuts to the UW System wouldn’t affect dining services due to the University’s contract with Sodexo allowing for regular renovation. “Budget cuts can affect just about everything,” Strand said. “However, our dining contract with Sodexo provides for Sodexo’s investment in our facilities on a regular basis.” According to Strand, the renovations keep the venues within Reeve Marketplace up to date and will address the areas in which customers feel underserved. “Statistically, approximately one-half of our students are looking for these higher-end ethnic foods,” Strand said. Hedge said Mexican and Asian cuisines are not the only areas customers seem to be unsatisfied with. “We heard students indicate that Pizza Hut is not their preference for pizza and Italian [food], which is also reflected in trends we see in the sales over time,” Hedge said. “So, we may also look at an Italian concept.” According to Hedge, the funds to provide changes to UWO dining comes from their contractor. “University Dining asks our contractor to plan for changes over the life of the contract, and they provide investment dollars for this,” Hedge said. “This is the second year of the contract extension, and typically, a new major concept is introduced every two years or so.” Hedge said adjustments to menus are made annually or when the need arises. “Our current planning will strategically respond to students based on the research, and continue to make changes over the final four years of the contract,” Hedge said. According to Hedge, even though UWO has a diverse population, students should embrace new concepts as they’re introduced. “Some like a more sophisticated taste profile and some like the more traditional,” Hedge said. “Some are willing to spend more for higher quality, and some want the best value for their dollar. Our challenge is to provide something for everyone.” General Manager for Sodexo Campus Services Bill Rotchford said these changes are not set in stone for this coming fall. “Unfortunately there have been no decisions made on the formats at this time,” Rotchford said.