Sodexo expanding at NSU’s union

Women fueling the future of the oil industry
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November 18, 2014
Women fueling the future of the oil industry
November 18, 2014
Not so fast!
November 18, 2014

One door has closed, but another has opened at the Nicholls State University student union.

The university has shut down the arcade where students played billiards, video games and engaged in other amusements for decades. In its place is a convenience store where soft drinks, candy, potato chips, coffee and other items are for sale.

The store, which opened Nov. 5, is operated by Sodexo, a French company which has had the food and beverage contract at Nicholls since 1991.

“The biggest problem we had was the game room was being used very little. At one time, it was a hub between classes,” Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Brenda Haskins said. “The online games and kids going to their rooms have caused there to be no use of the game room.”

Sodexo bore the cost of the entire project, which cost $280,000. It is called “The Grid.”

Haskins said the timing was “perfect” since, with the game room closed, the school needed to fill the space.

“The Grid’ is a concept Sodexo came up with through our corporate offers solutions team. We do operate convenience stores throughout the country,” Sodexo Food Service Director Russell Barrios said. “They surveyed probably 100,000 or so students and asked what are they looking for in a convenience store and what are some issues they want addressed.”

The store is comprised of two sections.

“The retail area has a fresh bakery area and an area where you can be your own barista and brew your own drinks. It is a self-serve espresso machine. We have grab and go salads, sandwiches and those types of things,” Barrios said.

The second section, which Barrios and Haskins said has been the most popular, is the lounge area. It includes tall tables with bar stools and a middle riser equipped with USB plug-ins and electrical outlets.

“We have 24 of those charging stations so kids can come in with their books, laptops and cell phone and set up in one spot,” Barrios said.

The lounge area was an idea that Nicholls staff came up with to add to the appeal of the store and better use vacant space, Haskins said.

“We asked that they added a seating area and charging stations for the students because we did not want a small space going unused,” Haskins said. “When the Sodexo people came to see it, they insisted on putting the seating because they were so impressed with students wanting to sit in that area.”

Nicholls is the first campus in the United States to have “The Grid.”

“It is really cool to be the first one. That was appealing to me that the university would be highlighted because of that, now Sodexo will use Nicholls as a prototype to bring people from other schools here,” Haskins said. “That always helps, to have good recognition among your peers.”

Because the Nicholls site is a prototype, Sodexo acknowledges, a close eye is being kept on the purchases and preferences.

“All of the information that goes through the POS (point of sale) or cash register system is calculated to the corporate office to see what is selling,” Barrios said. “We talk to the customers and ask them what are some of the things they like to see.”

After a food advisory committee meeting, a student brought up the idea of flavored syrups for the barista station, which is something Sodexo plans to add.

“It is a fluid concept so it will always be evolving on customer wants and needs. The menus will change. The items like candy, chips and things you see in a convenience store will change over time to meet the needs of our customers,” Barrios said. “As the student population changes, they may want to see something different in there. It is never going to be stagnant.”

Since the opening, there has been a mixed reaction among the students.

“I like that they have a store on campus, but it is way too expensive,” sophomore from Hahnville, Alexis Cannon said.

However, mass communication senior from Houma Sean Ellis is happy with the pricing.

“It’s kind of like a glorified convenience store to me with a lot of snack food stuff. It is pretty cheap,” Ellis said.

While there is a mixed reaction for the prices, several students said the location has made it easier to shop and get what they need because the only convenience store option used to be in the Brady Housing Office located on the outskirts of campus.

“The Grid” will be a more centralized location to campus.

“I think it is more convenient because I do not have to walk on the other side of campus to Brady and it has everything you need,” junior from New Orleans Blake Songy said.

Junior from Thibodaux Caroline Callais added, “I like that it is in another location to buy some of the same things you had to buy in Brady without having to leave campus or go to a grocery store.”