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Sodexo launches new dining experience for students at Coventry University

An innovative partnership between Sodexo and Coventry University is transforming the way students and staff eat and drink on campus.

Coventry University TruckIn September, leading services company Sodexo, took on a 10-year contract to provide catering, food retail and hospitality at the university’s sites in Coventry, London and Scarborough.

And already its 30,000 students and 5,000 staff are benefitting from a completely new dining experience with modern, high-tech facilities and a unique food offer to suit a range of different diets, as Jonathan Keitch, Sodexo Partnership Director, explains:

“The university wanted to move away from a concession-based service and have more locally-sourced foods prepared on-site. With our 50-year track record of providing catering services to universities worldwide, and having the expertise of our own in-house chefs, we knew we could offer customers a much better dining experience.

“We moved in on 1 September and, within the first three weeks, we’d refurbished all of the 12 food outlets, created a new coffee bar and opened a food truck,” says Jonathan. “We’ve also introduced new menus, which include plant-based dishes and healthier options, and we’ve added nutritional labelling to all of our foods. Our 120 staff also needed to understand the vision for Coventry, so everything had to come together quickly, before students arrived.”

Coventry University Truck

Click and collect

Sodexo has also launched what it believes to be one of the first ‘click and collect’ food apps for a university. Fresh meals can be ordered from the app and then collected from a food counter. “This simple but clever idea fits with our own research and the growing trend for online food delivery,” adds Jonathan.

On the hospitality side, Sodexo has introduced a premium service with a new brand. Menus were put together using a novel competition-style pitch from some of Sodexo’s top chefs. Ateam at th e university selected ‘winning’ recipes and set menus for the thousands of guests who visit the university each year.

Customer insight

Coventry University TruckTo secure the contract, Sodexo created a bespoke plan for Coventry based on months of research - looking at local trends and interviewing around 300 students. Tara Cunningham, Sodexo Marketing Manager, explains why this was important:

“Our priority was to come up with an offer that matched what customers wanted. We had a team of researchers on site to gather information, and this played a big part in developing our proposal.

“For instance, students told us they wanted freshly-prepared food, vegetarian and vegan recipes, and healthy options. They also wanted a choice of dining experiences where they could meet up with friends over a sit-down meal or eat on the run. That’s why we’ve introduced the food truck, which sells a range of hot and cold foods to-go."

For us, it was about understanding student life at Coventry, rather than just replicating what we do at other university sites.

Coventry University TruckThe new branding designed for the outlets reflects this philosophy. The name Lo & Co means ‘Local to Coventry’ and also refers to the on-site preparation of food and the use of local suppliers.

Sodexo’s approach is certainly paying off. In the first six weeks, the company reported a significant increase in the sale of food and drink across its retail outlets and hospitality service.

Collaboration

Coventry University TruckPartnership working is at the heart of the Sodexo-Coventry relationship. The university has targets for becoming plastic-free and minimising food waste. “We’re not just a catering supplier,” says Tara. “We’re working with the university to meet its sustainability, social and community commitments. We’re involved in a range of projects such as linking up with food banks, sourcing local growers and partnering with social enterprises. We’ve already joined forces with homeless charity, Change Please, which supplies and serves coffee on campus.”

Coventry University has risen in popularity over the last few years, and is now ranked 13th in the Guardian University Guide. It was recently awarded ‘University of the Year for Student Experience’ in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.

Michael Ricketts, Deputy Director of Estates - Catering and Hospitality at Coventry University, says: “We’re delighted to welcome Sodexo to Coventry University Group as our new catering contractor."

Their whole ethos around locality, sustainability and health and wellbeing matches ours so, together, we’re a perfect fit.

Coventry University Truck"We’re very excited about the partnership with Sodexo and look forward to working with them. We’ve had a great start so far and already their offer is proving popular with staff and students here.”

Over the next 12 months, Sodexo will open a new courtyard cafe, offering a table service where diners place orders from a tabletop tablet. A new cafe is also being designed and built in the university’s 24-hour library, and a central food production unit is being planned.

June 03, 2019

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