By Emma Ryan
Following the release of Pipe Dream’s article, “Campus Dunkin’ charges more than local Vestal, Binghamton stores,” outrage ensued. Students and employees alike were shocked and offended to discover that “60 of the 90 items were more expensive on campus.” Are these price hikes justified? Is there a solution to the complex pricing system of on-campus eateries?
The primary defense of owner Santina Christian is that operating on campus involves a different and more complicated set of expenses as compared to operating off-campus. Thanks to the university’s ten year contract with Sodexo, this is true. Sodexo pays Binghamton University to operate on campus. Sodexo essentially rents the space and equipment necessary to operate from the university. The contract dictates that Sodexo controls all food operations and has the final say in what is served to students. When a retailer wants to come to campus, it must negotiate a contract with Sodexo. According to retail manager Megan Gorski, it took “three years of planning and preparation… to make the Dunkin proposal a reality.” In three years, I can practically complete a degree. An unnamed source implied that Sodexo typically takes approximately 20% of the retailer’s sales. In exchange, Sodexo provides cashiers and other services, such as ordering supplies, and the retailer does not need to pay rent or utilities.
This is a sort of twisted monopoly. Sodexo gets to control all of the food sources on campus, making it harder for outside companies to serve the students. For example, the late Bearcat Cafe (R.I.P. in peace) is currently a big question mark. Sodexo employees, whether it be the floor managers or the back office workers, are struggling to come up with a way to utilize the station. It’s really hard for them to come up with good ideas, unfortunately. But there are definitely other companies that know what BU students like, such as nearly every restaurant downtown. If one of these restaurants wanted to rent the station, they would have to go through Sodexo, who technically is a competitor, gain Sodexo’s approval, and then give Sodexo 20% of sales… you don’t need to be a business major to know that’s a lot.
It would be one thing if Sodexo’s approval ratings weren’t worse than Trump’s, but students near and far have endless complaints about Sodexo. Whether the Sodexo Shits got you feeling some typa way, or you just don’t like the food, I think it’s safe to say that people are dissatisfied with the food Sodexo serves. The dining halls are trash. The MarketPlace is decent, but a majority of the food in the MarketPlace isn’t from Sodexo. Take a look at this handy chart:
|Sodexo Owned and Operated
|Cakes & Eggs
And Red Mango barely counts; it’s a franchise that Sodexo manages. Take a look at the list. Look closely. Which stations are more popular? Which do students prefer? The ones on the right or the left?
Y’all know it’s the ones on the right. The busiest station in the MarketPlace is probably Chick-n-Bap, followed by Tully’s. Yet Sodexo is still the primary contract holder and negotiator. Why should a company that serves sub-par, unfavorable food have control over all food choices on campus? It shouldn’t!
What else does Sodexo do besides control everything (poorly) and sell shitty food? They provide the meal plan service? I guess? The meal plans are overpriced, probably because only one company can provide them.
Essentially, businesses can’t simply come onto campus and start selling food, nor can they easily rent vacant spaces and operate their businesses. All sellers must go through Sodexo. Dunkin’ could not simply open up in the Tillman Lobby and operate as usual; owners Christian and Vanderline had to consider the increased cost of dealing with Sodexo and selling on Sodexo’s turf.
Students are hurt by Sodexo’s contract with the University plain and simple. We wind up paying higher prices for things that we could get off campus for a cheaper price. We are stuck with limited options. If we want cheaper choices, we are forced to go to the nasty dining halls, which are less appetizing than cat food.
If campus dining was a free market, students would enjoy better choices and better prices. The University could easily provide students with a meal plan and lease the space out to both vendors and retailers. BU already owns all of the space and equipment, so why doesn’t it control it? Why let Sodexo ruin our dietary tracts and overcharge us?
Something’s fishy here, and it’s not what I’ve been eating. We’re basically eating prison food. Good news is, Sodexo is only on year three of its ten year contract with BU! #blessed! And by the time the contract’s up, we’ll all be long gone. Here’s to another seven years of Sodexo Shits!