Sodexho says outside catering available

    Beginning in March of this year, student groups wishing to hold catered events were limited to using Sodexho, Portland State’s food service provider. Concerns about students’ inability to contract outside catering services have continued, but Sodexho employees say students have had few problems securing outside services.

    For catered events through Sodexho, the university asks for one week’s notice, although Sodexho said that they have been able to respond to requests with less notice. If a student group wants catering from an outside vendor, the group must give a two-week notice. Student groups must also fill out an outside vendor waiver form, stating how they intend to cater their event.

    ”Some groups are supported by donations from local vendors like Hot Lips or Baja Fresh. Why shouldn’t they be able to allow those companies to cater their events?” said a SALP administrator who asked not to be named.

    Chris Richter of the PSU Forensics Club called the process of booking an outside caterer a disaster, and said it was not worth the hassle.

    John Eckman, associate director of Auxiliary Services, said in March that the waivers are standard for student group use. “Groups are allowed to cater through Food for Thought. They can hold potlucks. They can also get a waiver if the food is donated, or if their group needs foods that the caterers can’t prepare, such as certain kinds of ethnic food. We will also work on a case-by-case basis, for issues of price or other special needs,” Eckman told the Vanguard in March.

    According to PSU Dining employees, student group requests for outside catering are seldom turned down.

    The catering coordinator for PSU Dining, Christy Corno, said she disagrees with the allegation that Sodexho is seeking to force students into using only their catering. “The waiver process isn’t Sodexho’s rules. It was set up by the university [to ensure] the safety of the students,” she said.

    ”We exist to serve the university and the dining needs of the students, and what they say goes,” said Beth Bayrd, who works with PSU Dining and is the former catering coordinator.

    Some groups have had difficulty with the university’s procedure for event booking and the service that Sodexho provides, and the anonymous SALP administrator is wary about what they called Sodexho’s domination of catering services at PSU events.

     “The waiver request form has undergone several incarnations,” said Bayrd.

    ”We’ve tried to make the process as easy and flexible as possible for student groups,” said Charlie Benson, general manager of PSU Dining, “and we have recently revised the waiver form to make it more inclusive.”

    ”I don’t know of any waiver requests that have been denied since I’ve been processing them,” said Kari Gastich, director of Conference, Event, and Guest Services and the person responsible for clearing waiver forms.

    Sodexho replaced Aramark in the summer of 2005 as the main campus food service company.

Groups are able to cater their event through outside sources if the food is either delivered or served by the employees of the caterer or restaurant.

    ”We want to make sure that food doesn’t sit in someone’s car for hours before it is served,” said Gastich. “It only takes one student who doesn’t know how to handle food to put everyone at risk. A lot of campuses don’t even allow outside food in their dining halls.”