Grambling State University inks contract with new dining service provider

Grambling State University has launched a new dining program with basketball legend Magic Johnson’s food service provider SodexoMAGIC.
SodexoMAGIC is replacing Aramark Corporation as the campus’s food service provider after Aramark’s contract ended on June 30.   

Jovan Hackley, Communications Director for Grambling State University, said the difference between Aramark and SodexoMAGIC will be food quality. 

“SodexoMAGIC’s has a bigger focus on data, analytical, and live monitoring and through the gram1901dining [social media] handle, students have the opportunity to give feedback in real time,” Hackley said.
Hackley said GSU will be working closely with SodexoMAGIC. 

“In addition on the contract side, there is a mandatory meeting that we have every month about food that involves somebody from the President’s Office, SGA and others that will be monitoring how they are doing every month for the next five years,” Hackley said.

Hackley said that the talks for a new dining program started about three years ago when President Gallot first arrived at Grambling.
“There were a lot of listening sessions that he had with students, visiting classrooms, visiting [McCall] dining hall, visiting different spaces and hearing what students had to say,” Hackley said. “In addition to The Gramblinite and some of the other news outlets have covered what was going on with food, and so we knew that we had to innovate.” 

Hackley said that the university undertook a 12 month research effort that started with a meta analysis of all of the contracts around the state. 

“We looked at every school within our system and what their dining programs were and what their contract terms were,” Hackley said. 

The university then held focus groups with students. 

“The Student Government Association led the ‘Talk to Me Thursdays’, as well as, other student focus groups that we had with our dining provider,” Hackley said. 

Hackley said student feedback was essential in moving forward with food options on campus. 

“The biggest effort was the dining survey that happened earlier this spring,” Hackley said. “In 24 hours, we had over 20 percent of campus respond and tell us what they wanted in dining needs.”

Hackley said students gave the administration the major framework that turned into the proposal for a new dining provider.

“We listened to our students first,” Hackley said. “So the students’ feedback literally turned into the points and requirements.”

Hackley said Chic-Fil-A was the number one choice for a campus outlet and now it be included in the renovation for the Tiger Express. 

A new feature that is included in the partnership with Grambling and SodexoMAGIC is the 24-hour dining service. 

“We have a lot of students that are eating overnight, who don’t access food or want food until about 8 p.m. and who order takeout and delivery all the way up to 1 to 2 a.m.,” Hackley said. 

McCall Dining Hall will start 24-hour dining on August 11 that will include any food that is made to order, which includes a frozen yogurt and pizza station. 

“McCall is going to be the 24-hour dining center,” Hackley said. “In Tiger Express, you will see expanded hours, as well as Starbucks when it launches.” 

SodexoMAGIC is currently staffing their team, recruiting people from dining services, as well as those for new areas that the campus has not had before, such as on-site dietician.

“We’ve never had an onsite dietician,” Hackley said. 

Also, an on-site dietician will be able to help students as well as faculty with their food needs. 

Hackley said that Sodexo will also be looking for a general manager, as well as a dedicated marketing person. 

The partnership between SodexoMAGIC and Grambling includes $6.7 million in renovations for the McCall Dining Hall during the summer of 2020, the renovation of the Tiger Express, which will include a Chic-Fil-A, Firehouse Subs, and a Pizza Hut; as well as a Steak & Shake food truck and an onsite Starbucks, coming in Fall 2019 and 2021, respectively.