Dining Services Facing Staffing and Supply Shortages

Colgate University Dining Services has recently faced numerous challenges to its operations, resulting in reduced dining hall hours for students, faculty and staff.

According to Don Stanwick, Resident District Manager of Dining Services, the department has faced staffing shortages and supply chain interruptions since last spring. The O’Connor Campus Center (Coop) is no longer open on weekends, which was “not an easy decision” for Dining Services to make, Stanwick admitted.

Stanwick asserted that the new hours for the Coop were listed in an email from Aug. 19, along with the hours of the other dining options on campus, including Donovan’s Pub, Frank Dining Hall and Chobani at the Hieber Cafe.

“We started talking about [this change] last spring, looking ahead with our staffing, issues where we were going to face some staffing shortages, but not to the extreme that we are facing,” Stanwick said. 

The plan was to keep Frank, Chobani, the smoothie and deli station at the Coop and Donovan’s open through the weekend in order to maintain the options available to students.

“So [students] weren’t losing out on any options, just kind of on the space piece of it. And it was more of a thing to help us with some of our staffing concerns at the time to make sure that we we can operate and still give a full program […] deli and smoothies at the coop would stay open seven days instead of the deli and smoothie closing on the weekend,” Stanwick explained.

Colgate University dining venues are managed by Chartwells, a dining services and catering company that manages the dining systems of over 300 college campuses across the United States. Chartwells employs the managers of Colgate’s various dining venues as well as many of the staff which help the venues to operate.

Staffing shortages are not the only hardship that Dining Services has faced recently. The food provider for on-campus dining locations, Sysco, who has also faced staffing issues, did not provide delivery for a large shipment expected on Friday, Aug. 26, resulting in some food limitations toward the end of the weekend at Frank Dining Hall. In addition, multiple employees missed their scheduled shifts, creating a chain reaction that led to the dining hall closing early.

“While we still had plenty of food here, the only true item that I ran out of was burgers, and some cereal. And so, we did close early on on Sunday, and we closed at 10 p.m. And this was a decision that I made basically in efforts to protect my staff, not because we were really running low on food,” Stanwick said. “While we did have food, we didn’t have the bodies to keep refreshing the food and keep the food out there.”

A representative from Sysco told the Maroon-News that the food did not get delivered as usual on Friday due to staffing issues as well, highlighting the broader staffing shortages that are facing not only Colgate, but many other parts of the state.

“Our Sysco site in Syracuse has had some limited and temporary delivery delays recently due to staffing challenges; however, the company expects to operate business as usual this week. We regret any disruption to our customers and expect to be able to catch up on delayed deliveries this week.”

While some deliveries were canceled, others were delivered during the late hours of the night when no staff would be present to receive and unload the deliveries, forcing Dining Services to rearrange schedules to ensure that the delivery was processed upon arrival.

While Frank and The Coop have been the target of student and parent criticism of the Dining Services department, Chobani has been relatively unaffected by the staffing issues that are prevalent throughout the University. Manager Michael Stagnaro claims that although there were a few overly busy days during the first week of classes, resulting in delayed preparation of meals, the location has not lost many staff members this semester.

“I’ve been really lucky to only lose one regular staff member and I have four returning students from last year, one of which was given the job as a student manager,” Stagnaro said.

Stagnaro said that although the cafe has not faced too many problems regarding staff, the volume of customers eating at Chobani has been difficult to handle.

“Thursday and Friday of last week were just just over-the-top busy. It just has to do with hundreds and hundreds of people coming into one spot to eat at one time,” Stagnaro said. “We’re a victim of volume […] everybody wants to be here, which is wonderful. It’s a good problem, [but] we’re not a big facility.”

While Stanwick and Stagnaro want to assure the Colgate community that they are doing everything they can to make dining on campus as convenient as possible, parents and students have expressed concern over the perceived lack of food options on campus. Kristy Giltner, parent of a sophomore Colgate student, wishes the University had planned for this lack of staff earlier in the year, so as to not inconvenience students as classes began this past week.

“I really wish that Colgate recognized that the labor shortage was going to affect dining before the students arrived on campus,” Giltner said. “They could have pro-actively alerted the students and parents and planned for how they would remedy the situation from day one.”

Sophomore Toby Wolfson also commented on the shortcomings of Dining Services over the first few weeks of the semester.

“It’s definitely been a struggle to find food up the hill over the past couple of weeks with the Coop being closed on weekends and Frank’s hours constantly up in the air. Students are having to actively search for food and wait in long lines on a campus that should have the resources to fix this problem,” Wolfson said.

Stanwick was sympathetic towards students’ and parents’ concerns, admitting the fault of Dining Services on the occasions of early closings and long lines, and he wants to let the students know that the department is doing everything it can to make sure these issues do not happen again.

“If we don’t deliver [students] needs, it gets frustrating. They get upset. It confuses them, and it’s hard for them. And that’s why it’s on us to make sure that we deliver a program,” Stanwick said. “So that’s what our goal is, we’re we’re going to be fixing it […] I expect there to be plenty of food out, and we will be rearranging our schedules to make sure that we accommodate that.”