Staff Shortage and Renovation Increase Dining Issues

Bijeta Lamichhane

News Editor

 

Since The College of Wooster’s Student Center renovation began, spaces for students to engage and dine are significantly limited. Spaces like the Alley, the Pit, and Mom’s Café are no longer available. Although Campus Dining has adjusted their operations — by offering lunch and fourth meal in Kittredge and relocating MacLeod’s convenience store — students continue to experience issues with overcrowded and inconvenient dining locations. This issue has also increased due to the lack of staff members in Dining, which causes Old Main Café to remain closed.

Students have discussed  the main dining hall’s lack of seating during peak mealtimes. Many also expressed frustration over standing in line for a long time between classes.

“[Last semester], I avoided Lowry at noon before class, because I know the line to get in won’t give me enough time to eat a proper meal, but Knowlton is the same now, and Lowry is worse,”  Ezana Kiros ’22 said. “Kittredge is not as crowded, but it is far from where my classes are, so it has been difficult to manage mealtime with classes.”

Director of Campus Dining and Conference Services Marjorie Shamp acknowledges students’ complaints with the dining situation. “Campus Dining is aware of the long lines at Knowlton Café and during peak periods at the serving stations in Lowry,” Shamp said. “These issues are typical for the beginning of the academic year when students haven’t settled into routines but are compounded this year by a lack of adequate staffing. Our inability to open Old Main Cafe to start the academic year is contributing to long lines at Knowlton Café as well.”

The inadequate number of staff members in Campus Dining puts immense pressure on workers, especially those working when most students eat. A student worker in Campus Dining, Malachi Mungoshi ’24 mentioned that working in dining can be tiring. “It does get hard, pulling weight you’re not sure you really can,” Mungoshi said. “I can tell you that I go to bed thoroughly exhausted after every night shift though.”

Shamp echoed Mungoshi’s sentiment and talked about how the issues have imposed challenges on the dining staff. “This academic year is a challenge for every single member of the Campus Dining staff, from the cashiers right on up through the management staff,” said Shamp. “The Lowry Center Transformation project has added many obstacles to the efficiency of the operation. Kittredge Dining Hall is being utilized in ways it was never designed for.”

Shamp also clarified that changes in dining are more frequent due to COVID-19. “COVID-related supply chain shortages call for frequent menu changes” Shamp said. “National shortages of products like plant-based foods, all types of chicken products, disposable cups, and even the CO2 for the fountain beverages have us scrambling to find replacements on a daily basis.”

Despite the barriers, Shamp applauded Campus Dining staff’s work to improve the dining situation at the College. “The team in Campus Dining has stepped up and is working through every roadblock and change that comes their way,” Shamp said. “Yes, they are tired, but they are also providing great training to new staff, working through menu changes, product shortages, and all of the little issues that pop up on a daily basis” she said. “The College of Wooster is very fortunate to have such a great group of people working in Campus Dining. They continue to prove that there is nothing they can’t do.”

Mungoshi also expressed gratitude to his co-workers. “I am thankful to all my co-workers; they make my five-hour shifts feel shorter than they are,” Mungoshi said. “And my fellow student employees.”

Shamp provided reassurance that dining looks to improve their operations. “We have streamlined the smoothie menu to speed service and also routinely analyze the number of sandwiches and salads that are sold to increase as needed so that the menu is available throughout the day without selling out,” she explained. “We are currently looking into ways to further improve Knowlton Café’s efficiency. Lowry’s staffing level is steadily increasing, and that will allow us to open more stations and operate the dish room.”

To hire staff over the summer, the College increased their starting pay rate to $14 per hour. “Campus Dining actively hires new staff continuously,” Shamp said, “and we are now working with three staffing agencies to assist us with the search, with great success. New additions to our ranks are arriving weekly and are being trained on the various positions that are available.” 

To decrease wait time and accommodate dining staff members, Shamp recommends that students visit Kittredge Dining more often. “Kittredge Dining Hall has the capacity to seat 200 students and is typically only half full during lunch,” she mentioned. “It is a very quiet and comfortable location, and we are seeing the same students there quite frequently. An advantage to dining at Kittredge is that you can also stop into MacLeod’s Convenience Store while you are there, and of course, Kittredge offers an entrée, soup, a salad bar, panini grills for sandwiches or quesadillas and gluten-free waffles!”