Einstein Bros. team wins Sodexo’s national Universities Customer Experience award

Einstein Bros. Bagels team

The Einstein Bros. Bagels team of (from left) Erica Marshall, Elonda Robinson and Rochelle Little received Sodexo’s national monthly University Customer Experience award after being nominated in May. (Photo by August Jennewein)

It took a tragedy to show Rochelle Little how much she and her colleagues are appreciated at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Little is the hourly supervisor of the Sodexo team operating the Einstein Bros. Bagels location in the Millennium Student Center.

In April, Veronica Williams – whom Little worked alongside for 10 of the past 13 years at UMSL during stints with two companies – died suddenly after collapsing during a work shift.

In the days and weeks after Williams’ death, Little and fellow team members Erica Marshall and Elonda Robinson began hearing from regular customers across campus who wished to express their gratitude and share in their grief.

“It was very surprising how many people reached out and came and supported us,” Little said, “and they still are doing it to this day.”

That included letters of support from Professors Frank Grady – the chair of the Department of English – and Anne Winkler – the chair of the Department of Economics – when Retail Manager Laura Carpenter nominated Little, Marshall, Robinson and Williams for Sodexo’s monthly Universities Customer Experience award in May.

“We nominate somebody every month because we feel like we’ve got some good people that need to be recognized,” Carpenter said.

Often, that recognition ends there. In can be difficult to stand out within Sodexo – a company that, according to its website, “provides food service, accommodations and facilities management services to over 1,000 universities, colleges and independent schools in the United States and 35 other countries around the world.”

So Carpenter was elated when she got to inform Little, Marshall and Robinson that they had been chosen not only for regional recognition but Sodexo’s monthly national monthly award as well.

“I’m not sure that they realize what a big deal it is really,” Carpenter said. “But I’m certainly proud of them.”

Winkler was attending a conference in Las Vegas in April when Williams died, but she cried with Little, Marshall and Robinson upon hearing the news the following week.

Hearing that is what prompted Carpenter to ask Winkler for a letter supporting the nomination. She happily agreed, relaying her personal almost daily interactions with the team.

“I applaud the whole Sodexo team at UMSL for their quality of service and friendliness, but in supporting this nomination I give an extra-special ‘shout out’ to the Einstein team,” Winkler wrote. “They make a real difference at UMSL in the lives of students, visitors, staff and faculty like me. And, with Veronica’s passing, I think this honor would especially mean a lot to the Einstein team.”

Winkler reached out to several other faculty members and asked them to contribute their own letters of support.

Little is certainly appreciative.

“It brightens my day up a little bit because it’s hard to come in here every day now, knowing that I worked with Veronica and knowing that I’m going to never see her again coming in this place,” she said. “Erica and Elonda are the same way.”

Carpenter is planning a celebration of the award once the new semester begins, and Little is hopeful there can be a plaque honoring Williams’ memory.


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