Five Questions for: John Monica
After Hurricane Katrina, a partnership between 11,911-student Tulane University and 4,585-student Loyola University in New Orleans—called Uptown Dining Services—was created to provide foodservice to both locations. FSD spoke to John Monica, district manager for Sodexo Campus Services, which manages foodservice at both universities, about how this partnership works and why it makes sense for the students.
How did the partnership begin?
Due to Hurricane Katrina, we were duplicating services on both campuses. With the Uptown Campus Dining partnership, we were able to double the value and variety on both campuses. The campuses themselves overlap in terms of dedicated campus space and since Sodexo operated the foodservice at both locations, we could provide better resources for both campuses during times of campus closures such as holidays, etc. The campuses were already sharing their campus shuttles, so we identified this as an ideal opportunity to strengthen that partnership and add value to our current service offerings.
How exactly does it work?
The students can use both the meal plan and declining balance points in both retail and resident dining operations on either campus. The sales stay on each campus, but Sodexo internally charges the food cost directly to the other account. We have an area general manager and a marketing manager who oversee the coordination of operations on both campuses. Originally, the lack of national brands was what drove Loyola students to Tulane. This year, to even this out, we allowed Tulane students the opportunity to dine in the newly renovated dining hall at Loyola.
What challenges were there in creating the partnership and how did you overcome them?
The volume added by allowing students to dine at both retail and resident operations created a challenge. The seating areas in both resident and retail had reached maximum capacity this year due to higher enrollment numbers, so this added to an increase in traffic in retail and resident dining during peak hours, creating longer lines in retail and less seating capacity in resident dining. Another challenge was that one campus had a larger draw due to the national brand portfolio offered in retail. Now the students can use both their meal plans and declining balance points on both campuses, so traffic has equalized on each campus. Another challenge was that it necessitated the universities to let their "guard" down.
Why did you decide to create the brand Uptown Campus Dining?
Those familiar with the area know that both campuses are located in "uptown" New Orleans. The name was created to represent the culture and character of what signifies New Orleans and the campus experience to our students. Loyola has a newly renovated dining facility and Tulane has new branded retail offerings. Loyola has more New Orleans cuisine available in their internally branded retail offerings and Tulane has more nationally branded offerings. Both campuses offer a variety of healthy and natural concepts, as well as, a great variety of both retail and resident dining options to meet any student's needs.
What advice would you give other operators who may think of doing something similar?
Our partnership provides the ability to provide more variety to students and the ability to allow students to dine on one another's campuses during close downs, as well as, labor sharing. Make sure you receive student input before moving forward. The students need to be aware of the extra traffic due to displacement that has affected seating capacity and created more traffic in retail operations resulting in longer lines.