Five Questions for: Tom Post

Five Questions, Tom Post, Sodexo, Fill My FridgeWhen Tom Post, president of campus services for Sodexo, was helping his son move into his college dorm he was frustrated by the lack of services available on move-in day. He spoke to FSD about his decision to make sure students and parents at Sodexo universities didn’t have the same problem by creating Sodexo’s Fill My Fridge program.

How did the idea for Fill My Fridge come about?

They say that necessity is the mother of invention but in this case, I guess necessity was the father of invention. Last August, my wife and I moved our freshman son into his new campus home. For students and parents, this move is regarded as a rite of passage. However, it wasn’t exactly an exceptional experience for any of us that day. After hours of confusion on campus, we then had to hop in our car and drive 40 minutes to buy supplies and to stock his dorm refrigerator. I thought to myself, we need to make sure students and parents at Sodexo-served campuses have an exceptional experience during this really important time in the life of a student and his or her parents. We decided to make sure what happened to my family, doesn’t happen to families at campuses we serve. We came up with a program to create the kind of experience I wished for my family.

How does the program work?

During the resident hall move-in days Sodexo will set up an area where parents can purchase goods to stock students’ rooms with dry goods, refrigerated goods or beverages. We also engaged our local produce companies to bring local and fresh produce, our local dairy and bread partners and national beverage contractors. In addition, there will be an event where they can hear music, get a free bottle of water or snack or just enjoy being with their son/daughter on campus. We want to make it easy for every parent to enjoy the move-in day experience.

How is it marketed to incoming students?

It varies. At places like the University of South Carolina, there is a system where as the students are touring housing, they see refrigerators full of items so a parent can pre-order their fridge during the tour. At Stetson University, we are taking orders for a full refrigerator and at Drake University, we are tapping into freshmen via our dining Facebook page. Campuses are also sending out mailers, e-mail blasts and texts to let our customers know that when they come to campus we will be there to greet them with something fun. As part of move-in day for campus, we have referral cards for the RAs to use to let parents and students know the event is happening on campus. Our partners are excited to have a welcoming event on campus, and we are determined to make sure our customers are happy from day one on campus.

What were some of the challenges involved with setting this up?

We started with a group of 50 schools as a test. Once our Sodexo partners heard about the program we now have 182 locations that will be testing the program this fall. My team from marketing thought it was an awesome idea right away while the culinary, procurement and operations teams were a little more cautious and wanted to test it first. This program will be memorable for all those first time freshmen parents.

What advice would you give to other operators who might want to try something similar?

Take time to research what you want to sell. Sodexo involved many partners to finalize our product list. Our procurement and operations support team’s motto was if the students don't eat something regularly, then don't order it. Stay focused on making them happy and having fun.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

Read the full story via...

Ideas and Innovation
university chicago medical center renovation workers

As The University of Chicago Medical Center prepared for the revamp of one of its kitchens to feed an additional 202 patients, it wasn’t just foodservice executives coming to the table to make decisions. The process, which began in fall 2014, involved hourly employees from the ground up, says Daryl Wilkerson, vice president of support services. “They actually helped build this [kitchen], which is why I think this is so spectacular,” he says. “Normally what you’ll get in a lot of projects is senior people sitting around in shirts and ties making decisions.”

The hospital follows the...

Managing Your Business
empty drive thru window

The University of Vermont Medical Center cafes often overflowed with diners at lunchtime. But adding another cafe wouldn’t be enough. “We definitely needed another place for people,” says Garden Atrium supervisor Tanya McDonald.

That’s why the UVM Medical Center this fall opened a takeout window in its new Garden Atrium cafe, a part of the design scheme before the cafe even opened last year.

Not wanting to pressure the staff—and struggling with technological delays—dining services began with a monthslong soft launch, opening the takeout window to about 200 employees through...

Ideas and Innovation
idea bulb innovation concept

There’s no feeling quite like the “spark of inspiration” that Dawn Aubrey , associate director of housing for dining services at the University of Illinois, cites in this month’s Steal This Idea-themed cover story. That rush of blood and endorphins to the brain when everything comes together is like nothing else, and often finds me falling over furniture because I’m so excited to start putting plans into action. Unfortunately, I also bruise easily.

Throughout this issue, we’ve highlighted stealable ideas in all realms of noncommercial foodservice, from protein-focused sides to...

FSD Resources