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Ohio State replaces Sodexo as food provider for concessions

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Ohio State announced a new partner for concessions at university athletic venues that officials expect to be more lucrative than the deal it will replace.
OSU announced Tuesday that Levy Restaurants will enter a seven-year contract for all of the university’s athletic venues, including the Schottenstein Center, a change from its 15-year agreement with Sodexo Inc., a company that has been accused of violating workers rights.
Xen Riggs, OSU’s associate vice president for business advancement, said in a Tuesday email the way the contract is structured, the vendor doesn’t buy the contract, and that it is mostly based on commissions. The percentage can vary depending on the facility, type of event, premium sales and catering. OSU gets 42 percent commission from Levy based on gross sales less the sales tax, Riggs said.
The contract with the Chicago-based Levy Restaurants details $8 million to be reinvested into the university infrastructure, however Riggs said the specific details of where, when and how that will be invested has yet to be determined.
The university press release said the contract includes a $2 million allocation toward improvements of the Schottenstein Center’s infrastructure and $6 million for food service enhancements for all facilities, which includes rebranding, new signs and equipment upgrades.
“Through this new, seven-year agreement with Levy, Ohio State has an opportunity to work with a recognized leader in premium sports and entertainment dining to take our overall experience to the next level,” said Riggs in a press release sent out on Tuesday.
Sodexo spokesman Greg Yost said in a Tuesday email the new deal came as a disappointment.
“Sodexo is proud of the services we provided to The Ohio State University … especially our leadership on Zero Waste at Ohio Stadium, and we are disappointed the university decided to go in a different direction with its food and beverage program for the Jerome Schottenstein Center and Ohio State University Athletic Venues,” Yost said.
Some OSU students have protested OSU’s affiliation with Sodexo in the past because of alleged workers’ rights abuses by the company, and its contract is set to expire on June 30.
Sodexo welcomes the opportunity to serve OSU and its fans in the future, Yost said.
Riggs also stated in the press release the new commission rate with Levy Restaurants is expected to be 43 percent, compared to the current rate of 32 percent with Sodexo.
OSU’s current concession agreement with Sodexo returned $3.5 million in commission after generating $11.4 million in gross sales for the 2012 fiscal year.
With this new contract, the university expects to see about $1 million more.
“The university is committed to keeping food and beverage prices affordable and any increases would be determined by changes in market conditions, just as they have in the past, and no increases will occur as a direct result of our new vendor or contract terms,” Riggs said.
However, some students said they would not be affected by the change.
“I never bought food at the athletic venues before,” said Matthew Berno, a first-year in pre-mechanical engineering.
Berno also said he had never heard of the alleged workers’ rights violations.
The new contract will go into effect July 1 and will provide concessions to all major sports venues on campus, including Ohio Stadium, Bill Davis Stadium, French Fieldhouse, McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion and Jack Nicklaus Museum.

Ryan Cooper contributed to this article

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