Sodexo Foodservice Launches Meatless Monday at Brandeis with University’s Sustainability Committee

May 7th, 2018


Sodexo, a leading global foodservice management company, and Brandeis University, in Waltham, Massachusetts, recently launched a successful Meatless Monday promotion. The Monday Campaigns provided free resources and collaborated with Emily Baksa, Sodexo’s Marketing Specialist and Beth Winthrop, National Dietitian for Sodexo Universities. They shared tips and insights on getting students excited about vegetarian and vegan meals on campus.

 

Emily Baksa – Marketing Specialist for Sodexo

What were the driving forces behind the launch and implementation of Meatless Monday at Brandeis?
A student on the Brandeis Dining Committee, who is also a representative of the Brandeis Sustainability Committee, requested Meatless Monday as a trial event in the spring semester. The Sodexo Dining team had already developed a relationship with a local vegetarian and vegan restaurant, Red Lentil, in Watertown, MA and were planning on hosting the chef and owner, Chef Pankaj, on campus. At a Dining Committee meeting made up of students and Sodexo and Brandeis staff, the decision was made to host Meatless Monday. The event would also include a Chef Pankaj demo from Red Lentil. The Sustainability Committee was influential in promoting the event on their club social media and in weekly meetings. I provided print materials present throughout the lunch, speaking to the value of Meatless Monday. The Dining Services Dietitian also developed a display table showcasing sufficient sources of protein aside from meat that were present in the Dining Hall. This included soy milk, black beans, hard boiled eggs, and more. Students from the Sustainability Committee were present to greet students at the table and through-out the luncheon.

How did Sodexo develop a Meatless Monday menu for Brandeis?                                                  
Chef Pankaj from Red Lentil brought three recipes with him that he cooked and served at a separate station. The rest of the menu was created by Sodexo’s Executive Chef from a selection of plant-based recipes available in the company recipe matrix.

Sodexo’s corporate culinary development team has always focused on vegan and vegetarian recipes. In 2018, Sodexo is working with chefs from The Humane Society on additional plant-based vegan recipes.  The process starts with sustainable purchasing practices, which means sourcing local, fair trade, and humane ingredients.  Then, recipe development in our state-of-the-art test kitchen with recipe testing and menu development.  Sodexo’s global chefs contribute vegan and vegetarian recipes from around the world, broadening the perspectives of the staff, students, faculty and staff they encounter.

How successful was the launch overall?
We definitely consider our first Meatless Monday launch a success. We served 688 guests at lunch, which is higher than an average Monday.

You mentioned testimonials. Can you share what the students said?
They messaged us many positive reactions to the Meatless Monday event:
“Meatless Monday was so delicious! Please continue to do this, the options were great.”
“Meatless Monday is awesome! Please do more of them in the future!”
“I loved Meatless Monday! All the food was amazing and, as a vegetarian, I didn’t need to check what had meat and what didn’t. I would love to see more of this at Brandeis.”

What key strategies can you share for other schools interested in implementing Meatless Monday.
Collaboration is key. Any opportunity for campus dining to engage with other interest groups (on or off campus) makes Meatless Monday feel like a community-driven effort. Cross promotion of this messaging with campus partners is also an effective way to spread the word.

Meatless Monday is a moment to educate. The event should be supported by information on why meatless makes an impact and the benefits associated with a plant-based diet. These communications should occur in advance of the event, teasing its arrival, and also the moment a guest enjoys their meal.

Finally, the menu is the foundation of the event’s success. It is the moment to showcase the variety of dishes that are possible without meat. It’s an opportunity to flaunt some culinary creativity. It gives guests a taste of something that isn’t typical for a vegetarian diet and shows them the versatility of plants, beans, legumes, and grains. More importantly, it makes them tasty!

What is the likelihood that Sodexo will continue to promote Meatless Monday at the next school year?
It is likely that we will run more Meatless Mondays in the fall semester. We would like to continue to drive it through the Brandeis Sustainability Committee, as the student influence makes these events that much more valuable.

What do you think are the most effective ways to market Meatless Monday to get student support?
It was important to me to balance the promotion of our event from a variety of different perspectives on why Meatless Monday matters, including arguments for personal health, public health, and environmental health. A combination of these different appeals allowed the messaging to resonate with each guest in the most impactful way.

Meatless Monday has a lot of graphics that are fun and ready to use! We utilized the graphics to communicate health and environmental messages. The material was posted on our social media channel and we displayed posters, table tents and flyers in the Dining Hall during the event.

I also believe success comes from framing Meatless Monday as an exciting opportunity to try something new. Some guests may see “Meatless Monday” and be apprehensive, making a mental note to eat somewhere else for lunch that day. Instead, I want to counter that viewpoint and promote the event as something so enticing, so unique, so delicious that you don’t want to miss out!

Beth Winthrop – National Dietitian for Sodexo Universities 

For those who eat meat, there are concerns abstaining from meat won’t provide enough protein in their diets. What would you say to educate people about their concerns?
Plant-based eating includes a variety of foods rich in proteins and other nutrients.  For a great registered dietitian resource go to: https://vegetariannutrition.net/docs/Protein-Vegetarian-Nutrition.pdf

What top culinary trends do you see for college and university foodservice menus in the coming school year?
Plant-forward eating continues as a growing trend, along with Flexitarian eating, and a desire for clean ingredients.

What influences do you see Sodexo has, as a leading foodservice operator, on America’s eating patterns?
The University setting is a bridge from life with your family to life as an independent adult in a variety of different ways.  University dining is essential to fuel academics and athletic performance. It also fosters understanding between students as they learn about one another through their respective foodways. Our kitchen and dining venues are a non-academic classroom where students learn about new ways of eating, including plant-based, and begin to develop the eating habits of their future.

Meatless Monday is implemented in colleges and universities across the globe and is getting more popular. Students or faculty who are interested in learning more about sustainable, healthy food and how to get your school on board, take a look at our implementation guide and get in touch with us at info@meatlessmonday.com or contact us online here.