Big changes ahead for Bethel’s food service

April 24, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Bethel’s Sodexo scores in top 25 nationally, hires new chef

News | Emma Nichols for The Clarion

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Sodexo's new chef Clark Knutson's resume includes owning his own restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis and previously working in St. Thomas's dining services. | Photo for The Clarion by Drea Chalmers

Students may recall filling out surveys during fall semester about their campus dining experience, but few know that their responses helped shape future menus, food options and even Sodexo’s national ranking.

The fall student satisfaction surveys provided Bethel’s food service a spot in the top 25 in the nation among Sodexo’s campus services providers.

Bethel’s branch of Sodexo scored well above national averages in the areas of overall satisfaction and likelihood to recommend. National averages in these categories were 78 percent and 74 percent respectively, while Bethel students granted Sodexo 97.7 percent and 96.9 percent.

Students were polled on favorite menu items, quality and speed of service, among other things. Bob Schuchardt, general manager of Sodexo at Bethel, believes that keeping students happy should be a top priority for everyone on staff.

“If you’re not listening to the customers and doing what they’re looking for, then you’re not doing your job,” he said.

Sodexo responds to student input regularly and is involved in several efforts based on students' responses, including efforts to improve phone app options, cooking classes and the possibility of a food truck in the future.

Schuchardt’s team considers connecting with students to be just as important as the quality of food. They believe in listening to students’ requests and meeting them as best they can. Schuchardt identifies his employees’ relational skills as strong assets to their success in the ranking.

“They are out there on the front line. It’s about service; if you’re not personally serving the customer, you better be serving someone who is,” he said.

Sodexo employees have weekly meetings to assess how things are going within their areas of service and to help cultivate community on campus.

Many changes are occurring within Sodexo this year, including the recent addition of chef Clark Knutson in the Monson Dining Center. Schuchardt said he believes Knutson will be a key component in efforts toward continued growth within the kitchen.

Knutson is also an asset to the positive work environment within Bethel’s food service team. He will be in charge of the total production of the Monson Dining Center and catering, overseeing employees and making sure community is thriving.

When looking for new employees, Schuchardt looks for someone professional and relational. “I’m looking for someone that would fit into the community and that has a certain character," he said. "I look at skill level on the service end, but also on the relational level, how they relate to students, fellow employees or associates."

From cooking in Helsinki, Finland to owning his own successful restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis, Knutson certainly has the culinary resume to back up his relational work ethic. He previously worked in St. Thomas’s dining services, which drew him to the position at Bethel.

Knutson was impressed with the community and positive work environment present in Bethel’s kitchen.

“They take a lot of pride in what they are doing, and that’s definitely important,” he said.

Bethel’s community is often mentioned as something that sets the university apart from other campuses, and there is no exception for Sodexo food services.

“The main thing is that you’re almost part of the university here. There are student workers that work alongside us, there are open kitchens and you have daily interactions with the student population,” Knutson said. “When I met the staff here I found it a very open environment, focused on teamwork and positive attitudes.”

Fresh experience and continued feedback from students will be key in the positive changes coming to Bethel through Sodexo in the future.

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