SLU catering: A monopoly on food

Toasted ravioli: 88 cents a piece.

Box lunches: $6.75 a box.

Being able to cater an event through someone other than Sodexho-Marriott: priceless.

Many student organizations at Saint Louis University have felt frustration in dealing with Sodexho, SLU’s food service provider, when planning events such as banquets and dinners.

Student organizations are forced to use Sodexho as their caterer when using University rooms such as the Argentum or Saint Louis rooms in the Busch Memorial Center because of a contract between SLU and the food service company.

The policy does not allow for students to bring in food of their own, meaning they must pay the high prices for catered food.

Numerous attempts were made to reach Bill McGeorge general manager of dining services, in regards to the policy; however, he was not available for comment.

Christina Finn, who held the position of vice president of alumnae relations for her sorority, Sigma Kappa, for two years, is agitated with Sodexho. She said that the required use of the company limits students in finding the best-priced and best-quality food provider.

She said that under normal circumstances, if a food provider did not meet her standards, she would be able to find another business that would satisfy the needs of her organization.

“I’m not totally opposed to a contracted service for catering, but they should be friendly, open and of good quality,” Finn said. “Ideally, I would rather see it as a learning experience, like them helping us to plan events instead of being a business only looking for profit.”

Zeina Kiblawi, who deals with recruitment for Alpha Delta Pi sorority, described Sodexho as being unfriendly and impossible to contact.

For one of her organization’s events, they ordered platters of fruit with cheese and crackers as well as 10 gallons of punch to serve 100 people. The total cost was $630. The sorority was originally planning to serve finger sandwiches as well, but the price was too high.

“We have a tight budget to work with, so high prices caused us to cut out part of our order,” Kiblawi said. “They acted like they were doing me a favor by taking my money. It’s not reasonable for students.”

Kiblawi has also had problems with Sodexho on another level. Since Sodexho does the setting up and cleaning of the events, organizations must rely on them to have things ready on time.

However, in one circumstance, Sodexho was 45 minutes late in setting up, finishing just a half hour before the event was scheduled to begin.

“We wouldn’t go through them if we had the option,” Kiblawi said.

Washington University, whose food service provider is Bon Appetit, has no exclusive catering contract with them, allowing students to shop the various catering companies or even bring their own food to events.

Greg Teator, general manager of dining services at Wash. U., said that the purpose of this is to save the students money.

Bon Appetit also charges less for some food items. Its toasted ravioli is priced at 65 cents per piece, though a minimum of 50 must be ordered. Also, while SLU’s highest- priced box lunch is $9.50, a similar box lunch is provided by Wash. U. for $7.95.

Wash. U. also provides students with banquet facilities, which is done through Events Scheduling. There is no cost to student organizations, except for a security deposit which is returned to the students once it is determined nothing was damaged, Teator said.