Sarah Koenen | Co-News Editor
Ken Allen has been with Sodexo on Buena Vista University’s (BVU) campus for eleven years. This year is marking Allen’s fourth year as general manager of food services, and it’s clear to many who speak with Allen that he loves his job. However, his job comes with the task of pleasing as many people as he can.
The survey given to students, faculty, and staff at the beginning of March which went over the improvements to Sodexo will be looked over thoroughly by Allen himself. However, the results for the survey won’t be in until the end of March. After Allen has gotten the results back and has had a chance to look them over, he will meet with Student Senate on April 12 to discuss the outcome and what can be done to improve or maintain conditions.
“I know in the last survey that came out in the fall, I spent almost five hours on a weekend looking over 30-some pages of responses the students had given on that survey,” Allen said.
The main things Allen has looked at are the improvements that could be made to the late night grill and the weekend nights. The results of the spring survey, Allen said, “will be treated the same way: with care.”
“I’m not perfect, and there are always going to be some individuals who aren’t going to be completely satisfied,” Allen said.
Whether a student talks to Allen about something that could be done differently or is complimenting something, he’s more than happy to listen, and he takes everything he hears into consideration.
“My door is always open, and I’m always happy to hear from the students,” Allen said.
The Advisory Board for Food Services was set up last fall. This committee meets eight times a year (four times per semester). The meetings are a chance for Student Senate members, residence life staff, and a few students to voice their opinions. Also, each person is asked to voice other comments and concerns heard from fellow students. It’s a chance to pass on advice or suggestions to Sodexo staff that could help raise the numbers of satisfied students. Allen said it’s been a very helpful process for the Sodexo team, and each comment made gets taken highly into consideration. However, Allen stresses that not everyone is going to be satisfied and that comes with the job.
“We can’t fix all problems. And we can’t be expected to fix everything overnight. It’s an ongoing process,” Allen said, speaking of comments and concerns he’s heard from several BVU community members.
Three years ago when Allen received the position of General Manager, however, the numbers were much, much higher when it came to dissatisfied diners at BVU. Allen and the rest of the management team here on campus have seen a major improvement as far as the satisfaction rate for diners is concerned.
“As a company, we continue to focus on quality, service, and safety,” Allen said.
Speaking of what Allen and his employees do as a ritual to clear the plans for the day and make sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to be, he has formed a daily troubleshooting session.
“Every day, we huddle as a team and talk about plans for the day. Student experience is number one on our list, and we want to make sure the majority is happy with their dining experience,” Allen said.
The goal for which Allen is aiming? He wants to continue to improve the BVU community dining experience.
“I want to keep moving BVU in that forward motion with food. I want one of the best resident food dining programs anywhere,” Allen explained.
To do that, though, Allen needs to hear more feedback, and he needs to know more about what students expect. Students must also realize that Allen and his team have a rigid budget.
“I want students who go on campus visits to other schools where Sodexo runs the dining services to come to BVU and have the better dining experience,” Allen stated.
Allen says he’s more than willing to listen to anything the students, faculty, or staff have to say. His door is always open, and though he’s very busy, he’s always willing to take the time to listen. However, he wants people to understand he and his team can’t fix everything, and everything takes time. The road ahead is long, but with the help and cooperation of the BVU community members, it can and will be easier.