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Sodexo cuts operating hours due to low student traffic

By Channing Parfait
On November 8, 2011

  • Students relax and hang out with friends in front of the closed food court at 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

Nicholls State University's dining services shifted hours of several operations on Oct. 24 to accommodate Sodexo's financial constraints.

Richard Curtis, general manager for Sodexo, said the cut in hours was an ongoing process that the University, Food Advisory Association and Student Government Association worked together on to drive business in a positive direction based on the traffic patterns of students.

"For the first six weeks of school, we tracked sales every 15 minutes by each retail unit," Curtis said. "We let students decide the hours by their dollars."

This is the first fall semester for new outlets in the Student Union such as The Original Burger Company, Bayou Pizza and Pasta, Wall of Greens and SubConnection, which lose most of their business after 2 p.m.

"The average number of students that would dine in the Student Union between 2 and 9 p.m. during the test period in September was 150," Curtis said. "If you take that and divide by the number of operating hours, it doesn't add up."

Original operating hours for these services were from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., but a decline in business prompted Sodexo to change operating hours to 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"We are easily getting 80 percent of our business with the hours we chose to switch to," Curtis said. "By making the switch, it allows us to try and build the business."

However, he said there is no break in service because the Colonel's Retreat remains open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and closes at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. Sodexo plans to drive more business to the Colonel's Retreat with new menu items and specials such as $5 foot longs and a value menu in the future.

"We are simply trying to drive traffic from one area to another," Curtis said. "If we drive business to the Colonel's Retreat and Jazzman's, we allow a greater variety for students on campus."

According to Curtis, the biggest impact on hours of operation was at the Simply to Go unit in Peltier Hall. It is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays, and Curtis said it is simply not making enough profit to maintain itself.

To increase sales, Sodexo has set up marketing campaigns around outlets with less traffic such as Simply to Go, Aspretto Café in Powell-White Hall and the Smart Market or C-Store at the La Maison Du Bayou Apartments.

Jazzman's Café is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and closes at 3 p.m. on Friday. As of now, Jazzman's is closed on weekends, but Curtis said he hopes to reopen on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. as soon as this coming weekend.

Rachel Moore, freshman from Victoria, Texas, said she was aware that dining hours were cut because she eats from one of the services provided at least once a day.

"When we get out of practice late, the café is closed so we don't have many options for dinner," Moore said. "But at least Jazzman's is open late if I have to eat there."

At the end of the semester, Curtis said he plans to meet with the University, FAA and SGA again to assess potential changes for hours of operation next semester.

"It is still a work in progress," Curtis said. "We want it to be a great dialogue between people who live on campus, commuters, faculty and staff, so we can make sure we are meeting everybody's needs." 

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