Sodexho meets lunchtime need with extra staff members

In order to better serve lunchtime crowds at the College, Sodexho Dining Services changed its staffing patterns and procedures this year, which has resulted in the hiring of more part-time staffers than in previous years, according to John Higgins, general manager of Sodexho.

Rather than continue to hire workers for full-time positions, the company decided to add more part-time staffers to help alleviate the long lines and slower food service during the peak lunch hour between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., Higgins said.

“We added approximately 10 percent more people,” he said. “The people we would have hired would be all part-time.”

Higgins said the change is in response to the class scheduling that leaves an hour gap in the mid-afternoon for a large percentage of the student body.

The scheduling change he referred to was adopted last September, allowing classes meeting from 10 to 11:20 a.m. to have the option of meeting until 11:50 a.m. and classes from 12:30 to 1:50 p.m. to have the option of beginning at noon, according to Shirley Daniels, scheduling officer for the office of Records and Registration.

As a result, many students have a break between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. if their professor does not use the extra class time and they head straight to the cafeteria.

“It doesn’t matter where you are, at 11:30 a.m., everything is filled,” Higgins said. “That’s just when everyone goes to eat now. We needed to have our maximum staffing during that time.”

Higgins said that before the class schedules changed, the dining halls had a steadier stream of customers throughout the entire day.

However, now the eating pattern has shifted.

“We have a very high volume of business for an hour and then it drops significantly until dinner,” Higgins said. “We’re getting 1,500 people through our doors in 45 minutes.”

“Because of this dynamic of having so many people in one hour, we’re required to have maximum staffing at that time,” he said. “We had people staffed during the wrong times before.”

Higgins said that all staffing changes were discussed with the local union, Local 54, which represents many Sodexho employees on campus.

“We needed to make changes and we did it with the union’s support,” Higgins said. “We have a great relationship with them.”

Overall, Higgins is pleased with the progress Sodexho is making in dealing with the midday frenzy.

“We’re in a much better position this year than last,” Higgins said.

“I’ve noticed there are more workers now,” Doug Patalano, junior secondary education/history major, said about the staffing at Brower Food Court. “I see workers that used to be at Eickhoff are here now. I feel like now they have more (workers) to better manage the crowds.”

Still, many other students continue to be frustrated with the service.

“I was amazed when I came here this semester and there were lines out the door still,” Jamie Manganelli, senior communications studies major, said about Eickhoff Dining Hall. “It’s horrible.”

Michelle Spiegel, freshman elementary education/Spanish major, said she believes Sodexho can still make steps to improve service during meal times.

“There’s another line right there that they could have open,” she said, pointing to the empty cash register beside her while waiting in line to enter Eickhoff Dining Hall.

In response to Spiegel’s complaint, Higgins said that a cashier can get between 400 and 500 people through a line in five minutes.

He added that if the other register were opened that “it would just add a crowd in the service area.”

“It kind of staggers the crowds this way,” he said.

There are no other major changes in the works to improve the food service on campus, according to Steve Hugg, district marketing specialist for Sodexho.

However, Hugg said that reducing turnover in the staff is a goal of his and will be a major factor in maintaining quick and quality service.

“As we get employees in these positions, it’s important that we keep them here with us,” Hugg said. “Any time you can keep the right employee in the right position, it’s better for everyone.”