University of Maine partners with Sodexo to focus on the student dining experience, campus retail opportunities, modernizing venues

The University of Maine will become the final public university in the state to partner with Sodexo for campus dining services, increasing healthy local food options for UMaine students, national purchasing power, and economic opportunities for Maine growers and producers.

Pending the outcome of negotiations with Sodexo, UMaine Dining’s 21 nonrepresented management and supervisory employees will be offered the opportunity to transition on Jan. 1, 2023; full transition of ​the 91 represented ​UMaine Dining Services salaried and hourly ​employees ​who opt to transition to Sodexo will occur ​by ​July 1. All employees will be offered commensurate positions with Sodexo.

The employment of nearly 130 UMaine students in Dining Services will be unaffected this academic year. After July 1, student employees will be hired by Sodexo.

Beginning July 1, 2023, Sodexo will expand UMaine’s multifaceted dining services on campus, including enhancements in residential and retail options for students, and concessions for athletics patrons. It also will help address UMaine Dining’s recent staffing shortage.

Sodexo also has committed to significant investments in UMaine over the next four years, including capital improvements to residential and retail dining facilities, and catering and concessions venues.

UMaine students and other university community members will be invited to offer feedback and suggestions, and engage in town halls and focus groups to gain insight into their expectations of service level, local food options and dining venue quality.

“For years, the dedicated UMaine Dining staff members have operated a successful, high-quality program that has reinvested dollars annually into the university. Sodexo has committed to additional investments in UMaine in the next decade, including capital improvements to dining facilities, increased retail and catering opportunities, and reducing food costs by leveraging purchasing scale,” says Kelly Sparks, UMaine vice president for finance and chief business officer.

For the last six years, the University of Maine System has had a positive relationship with Sodexo at all six campuses, says Gretchen Catlin, chief facilities and general services officer for the University of Maine System. “Our partnership has expanded our ability to source local and fresh food, and to serve more students in a cost-effective way,” Catlin says.

The decision to outsource UMaine dining services follows a formal review of University of Maine Dining Services, conducted by an independent consulting firm to identify opportunities to optimize value and expand service.

“Each of the UMaine dining employees has my personal commitment to provide unwavering support through the transition,” says Brett Ladd, CEO of Sodexo Campus Division. “All current dining employees can be confident that we will invest in them from day one — from providing comparable compensation and benefits, honoring tenure and investing in skills training and career growth.”

Throughout the spring semester, the university will be engaging in discussions with the employees and their labor organizations, and the campus community. UMaine students and other university community members will be invited to engage in town halls and focus groups to gain insight into the future expectations of service level, local food options, and dining venue quality.

“The priority will be service to our students and the campus, and protecting the rights and needs of current employees in Dining Services,” says Richard Young, executive director of auxiliary enterprises for UMaine and its regional campus, the University of Maine at Machias. “The university has a simple equation to guide the process: excellent quality, impeccable service, respect and dignity for all current employees.”

UMaine will continue to manage the costs of meal plans for residential and commuter students. On-campus retail dining costs will continue to reflect the minimal increases incurred annually as a result of food and fuel costs, and supply chain fluctuations.

Sodexo meal plans, retail and concession or catering enhancements are designed to enrich the student’s dining experience on the UMS university campuses. 

Sodexo’s eight-and-half-year contract will include adherence to UMaine’s commitment to high-quality standards and local food sources, while increasing access to licensed food vendors, the integration of greater digital and mobile ordering technology, and expansion of concession and tailgating options.

Sodexo will pay UMaine a $3 million signing bonus and a $7 million facility investment, $2 million of which will be deployed in the first year of the contract. Over the next four years, Sodexo has committed to capital improvements to residential and retail dining facilities, and catering and concessions venues. Capital improvements are expected to include modernizing Hilltop and York dining halls.

In addition, like UMaine Dining, Sodexo is committed to expanding the purchasing power of local growers and providers, and helping address food insecurity, directly impacting the Maine economy, says Dan Roy, a Sodexo district manager. 

From potatoes in Presque Isle to coffee roasted in Carrabassett Valley, the University of Maine System purchased more than $1 million in food and beverages from local farmers and producers in FY21. ​​Of the $4.75 million spent on food by the University of Maine System in FY21, $1.16 million — 24.4% — was local, with about half for Maine meat, poultry and seafood, and nearly $200,000 for dairy products.

Contact: Margaret Nagle,