Sodexo cracks down on dinnerware theft

Photo by Erica Irish.

Changes made after losing $60,000 in stolen, broken dishes

With a near $60,000 loss attributed to stolen and broken dining plates, bowls and silverware over the last two years, Sodexo, the college’s dining service, is taking action to protect its dinnerware.

The college’s dining management partnered with residence life leadership last month to enact new policies regarding students and their use of cafeteria dinnerware. As a result of the partnership, resident assistants are now responsible for reporting dinnerware removed from the dining area as theft.

Sodexo Food Service Director Les Petroff said the new policy is already showing promise, with reduced incidents in students’ first two weeks on campus.

Jacob Knight, director of residence life, said Petroff approached his team in August. While Knight admitted that he was previously aware of the ongoing problem, this was the first time Sodexo leadership reached out seeking action.

Knight said he supports resident assistants using their own discretion in filing incident reports.

“I advised the RAs to work with it,” Knight said. “Use discretion, kind of like with noise violations. Give people warnings until they’re in compliance. But if they refuse to comply, then you would document them for theft.”

Having worked previously at Hanover College and Anderson University Sodexo dining facilities, Petroff said this is a problem unique to Franklin College.

Photo by Erica Irish.

“The reason the situation exists is because other schools’ food services are usually only one way in, one way out, past the cashier,” Petroff said. “So people are there to say, ‘Sorry, you can’t take that out.’ At my other schools, no one ever tried to take them out.”

But at Franklin College, when a student leaves the buffet area, they can easily walk out of the dining hall without passing another Sodexo employee.

Knight said the responsibility of enforcing this policy extends beyond residence life leaders.

“The college itself has policies that all students should be confronting policy violations,” Knight said. “You shouldn’t just be letting people violate college policy. You need to confront them or report them.”

Senior Jasmine Hunt expressed concerns about students’ inability to remove food from the dining hall without disposable dinnerware.

“Because of close classes—ours are only 10 minutes apart, and they take up the whole lunch hour—two days out of the week we don’t get food unless we want to be late to class,” Hunt said.

While disposable to-go items are preferred by students, Petroff said the use of disposable plates and silverware is unlikely due to the current meal plan format.

“If you have a retail operation and you pay for what you get individually, that’s one thing,” he said. “But in the all-you-can-eat format, that would not be doable.”

Petroff also detailed the negative effects of using disposable items from past experience.

“When it comes to the environment, I hate using paper plates or Styrofoam plates and plastic silverware to just dump them,” he said. “That’s not washable. You just use it and throw it away.”

With few reported theft incidents during the first two weeks of the semester, Petroff and Knight hope to maintain a culture of complicity to the new college rules, which may eventually reduce Sodexo’s financial burdens.

“My hope is that, by confronting it and trying to just make people aware,” Knight said, “that will convince people to actually return items to the dish tray and not need to be documented.”

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About Erica Irish 9 Articles
Erica Irish is a reporter and photographer for The Franklin. She is a double-major in Multimedia Journalism and Public Relations and plans to minor in Political Science. As a lifelong writer and observer of the world, Erica spends most of her days wandering local cities while taking photos and listening to the stories of those around her. A coffee connoisseur and vegetarian, Erica balances a lack of physical activity with a healthy love of needless food-based aesthetics and competitive library scouting. This is Erica's first year on The Franklin staff.

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