Sodexo vs. Chartwells: Is It Really Better?

Goodbye Sodexo, Hello Chartwells! Last school year, Lasell College decided to cut their ties with Sodexo and brought on a new food provider. Chartwells is dedicated to providing students with nutritious, delicious meals. Most Lasell students were eager to move on from Sodexo and became very excited to try Chartwells. Sadly, Chartwells was met with mixed reviews.

Chartwells seems to rotate the same food weeks at a time. Fried rice is almost an every other day occurrence, regular rice is a daily occurrence, as well as having some sort of variation of chicken. There are almost tacos or some sort of Mexican food every Tuesday (we once had chicken tacos two days in a row!). Fried chicken for lunch the same day we have chicken nuggets for dinner? Where is the variety? Students and myself are now growing tired of the same food every week or having three different types of chicken during lunch, and no other type of meat. I’ve talked to many students saying they enjoy Chartwells’ beef stroganoff, was told that it will be served more often, but have not seen it in weeks. Distance makes the heart grow fonder; Chartwells should keep that in mind and stop serving the same food every week.

The new drink fountains are great, too. A lot of students are pleased to find almost any drink they want including whichever flavor they want. I am not a big soda drinker, so I have yet to fully explore the machine, but I love all the possibilities. Sadly, there is no ginger ale in the machine, though (one of my favorite sodas).

What has been a positive change, though, are the vegetarian and vegan options. Megan Venuto, a junior and vegetarian, is satisfied with the new vegetarian and vegan options from Chartwells. “Chartwells is not that bad, but some things are weirdly separated. The new fuse station is just full of salads and fruits, and should maybe just stay at the salad station.” Megan continues, “I don’t eat meat and I find a lot to eat in the dining hall. I don't understand how some vegetarians say they cannot find anything. I even consider myself a picky eater.”

Chartwells food isn’t terrible quality, but the quality isn’t much different than Sodexo. Some foods still look questionable, but that isn’t anything new or surprising for me because we had Sodexo before. I noticed that Chartwells has gotten better at labeling their foods, but they should remember to change the label when they change the food. I would like to know what’s being offered instead of trying to figure it out myself. In the beginning of the year there were barely any labels on the food, but now they seem to label their food more.

At the Glow Lounge “Take 3” section, there are now wraps! Being someone who prefers wraps to bread, this was great news to me. I’ve gotten a turkey wrap before and it was not bad, and the ingredients on the sandwich seemed more luxurious than the year before. Roasted pepper mayo or pesto mayo in my wrap? Sign me up! Did I actually taste these ingredients in the wraps? Not really. Students say the salads are good and the sandwiches get a bit soggy from sitting in the fridge. The salads are also much bigger than Sodexo’s salads at the Take 3. The bad news about the Take 3 is we could no longer get a Powerade as our drink selection as part of the 3 items (entree, drink, snack). I would also check the dates on the sandwiches, as a friend of mine has gotten a sandwich from the Take 3 on dark, moldy bread. This could either be because the sandwich was prepared days in advance, the sandwich became moldy in the fridge, or a Chartwells employee made the sandwich even though the bread had mold on it. So just a word of advice: check your sandwiches before eating them.

The late night option, Boomer’s, was met with mixed reviews at first. At the beginning of the year, the menu was different than Sodexo’s, something students did not take well. Students grew accustomed to having menu items like chicken tender wraps and quesadillas, only to come back to burritos, nachos, and turkey burgers. The students requested for these items to come back and, after a few weeks, they did. The quesadillas were the first to return and the chicken tender wraps came a few weeks after. The nachos are no longer on the menu, but the burritos remain on the menu. I never tried the burritos myself, but I have heard through numerous students that the burritos are actually pretty good. Boomer’s also sometimes have specials, like hot dogs with chili, pulled pork, or other special items. I’ve also been before and was offered lamb by one of the staff members working the grill. I never heard or seen lamb before in the dining hall, but it was not bad. Part of me thinks it was an employee’s food he brought from home to make, but who knows? The “Take 3” options at Boomer’s have also grown since the first opening. Students can now get grilled cheese, cheese quesadilla, or a turkey/beef/veggie burger with a snack and a drink for one meal swipe. Overall, Boomer’s has improved since the beginning of the year.

In general, the staff of Chartwells are overall nice. Many students have told me they do not have any problems when asking questions to the staff for something or with a question. Elizabeth Bohn, a senior, states, “the staff is really nice. Anytime I need something the staff are always nice and attentive.” Chartwells listens to our request and helps us when needed, which wins them a few brownie points.

Overall, I’m still torn about Chartwells myself. I do believe, though, that they are doing a good job of listening to student’s requests and trying to make students happy. Chartwells is also very understaffed right now, so please be patient with them. Some say they want Sodexo back, I say what’s the difference? I feel as if there isn’t that big of a difference between the two food providers quality-wise.