NAU selects Sodexho for dining services, conference center

New food services

After an extensive bidding process, Northern Arizona University has awarded two contracts to Sodexho USA—one to operate student food service and the other to manage the NAU-city of Flagstaff conference center.

The 10-year contracts will result in upgraded student offerings and an expansion of dining areas in the University Union and du Bois Center. Sodexho also will operate and co-market the conference center as well as offer guests upscale cuisine.

“The university and Sodexho have had a strong alliance for years, and we look forward to our renewed partnership,” said Jane Kuhn, fiscal and operations director in Enrollment Management and Student Affairs. “Students and conference-goers will find new and exciting offerings that will make the NAU experience even better.”

Upgrades to student dining are scheduled to begin June 1. Union Station and The Eatery, both in the University Union, will combine to offer new food outlets and concepts for traditional all-you-can-eat dining. Expect to see seating capacity increase from 290 to 450 in the new dining hall.

Also on tap will be a 23,000-square-foot addition to the University Union. The addition, on the northwest side of the union, should be completed by August 2008.

“The renovations will include new food concepts, new food operations, new furniture and new retail outlets,” Kuhn said. High-tech help also will be provided with kiosks and web sites that detail menu options and nutritional information.

Student dining options will include a soup and salad bar, Mongolian grill, a ’50s-style diner, vegan and vegetarian selections, international cuisine and current Mexican and American favorites. The set-up will allow diners to watch their food being prepared. The Peaks area in du Bois’ south dining also will be expanded and renovated.

More locations will be open late night, and on-campus convenience stores in du Bois Center and Gateway Center will get upgrades. Other coffee and snack locations in the College of Business Administration, the lab science building and Cline Library will continue.

On the retail side, several new national brands are being considered, including Einstein’s Bagels, Jamba Juice, Wing Street and Southern Tsunami sushi. The new retail operations would join Starbucks, Pizza Hut and Chick-fil-A.

“We are honored that Northern Arizona University wanted to continue our partnership for another 10 years,” said Liz Bohlke, resident district manager for Sodexho. “We are very excited about what we proposed, and my management team and I are looking forward to bringing it to reality.”

Sodexho Conferencing, a branch of Sodexho USA, will manage conference center operations, including co-marketing, scheduling and pricing. Packages are being designed to accommodate daylong conferences as well as longer, overnight stays in conjunction with the on-campus Drury Hotel and other Flagstaff-area lodging.

The conference center contract includes upscale cuisine for guests at the new complex, which is scheduled to open in spring of 2008. Sodexho Conferencing operates centers across the United States, including a University Inn & Conference Center in Santa Cruz, Calif., the Davis Gregg Conference Center in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and the Black Canyon Conference Center in Phoenix.

The food service bid requests, which were created as a package for student dining and conferencing, were sent out in September. Responses were evaluated by a 42-member committee that included representatives from NAU administration, faculty, students, athletics, Residence Life, Hotel and Restaurant Management, the international office, Health Professions and the city of Flagstaff.

The two finalists—Sodexho and Aramark—made public presentations on student food service and the conference center operation.

“While both companies made excellent presentations, Sodexho’s overall proposal exceeded the evaluation criteria,” Kuhn said.

Sodexho’s contracts are for eight years with two one-year renewals.