COVID-19 sparks change in Sodexo operations on campus


A Sodexo employee prepares for meal time at Loyola during COVID-19. Loyola dining services have adjusted protocol due to the pandemic. Photo credit: Maria Paula Mariño

Valerie Cronenbold

Loyola’s dining services are managing the Orleans Room differently due to social distancing procedures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Phoebe Carriere, general manager of Loyola Dining Services, said the pandemic has added concerns about health and safety on campus.

“Sodexo understands these concerns, and we are committed to protecting the health and safety of everyone who dines on campus as well as all members of our dining team,” Carriere said.

Changes to the dining program include social distancing, reducing capacity in all locations and more disinfecting. Contactless payment options and new menus were also added to increase the speed of service and food safety. All staff have to complete daily self-wellness checks.

“We are taking a cautious, measured approach that gives students the confidence to enjoy meals on campus as well as the flexibility to choose the dining options that make them feel most comfortable,” Carriere said.

Having been a manager with Sodexo for the past 23 years, Carriere said that Sodexo’s hourly labor force is the backbone of daily operations.

“Their safety and wellbeing was and still is our top priority,” Carriere said.

Furloughs and pay cuts have not affected Sodexo’s hourly labor force, according to Carriere. They did, however, place some staff on temporary leave during the stay-at-home order at the beginning of quarantine. This would have happened six weeks later regardless as part of Sodexo’s yearly practice during the summer.

Carriere said managers called and emailed employees to make sure they were well and to answer any questions they may have regarding temporary unit closures. They also distributed the list of places around New Orleans that are offering free lunches for school-aged children. Sodexo gave all employees the information to access Life Works by Sodexo and added a weekly text campaign to ensure that everyone was receiving information.

Employees have the option to be temporarily reassigned to other units until their job is available, according to Carriere. Sodexo provided links to apply with other companies partnering with Sodexo, including Amazon, CVS and Walmart.

Sodexo also provided the information for the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation grants and offered 21 days of additional sick leave if one is diagnosed with COVID-19 or caring for someone who is. The dining service also provided CARES Act information on the federal stimulus and enhanced unemployment benefits and covered medical benefit payments for all full-time employees through June.

According to Carriere, the procedures will remain and change as the pandemic shifts with the recommended policies.

“Our phased approach enables dining teams to proactively support each level of this transition with appropriate tools and techniques that strictly follow local, state and federal guidelines,” Carriere said. “We are optimistic that together, we can rise to these challenges.”