Hamilton Eatery Hours Reduced, Menu Limited Amid Staffing Shortage

Rio Lacey, Staff Writer

The Hamilton Eatery announced at the beginning of August that they would be removing their hot sandwiches from the menu and reducing their operating hours due to staffing shortages. Still suffering the impacts of the pandemic, the Eatery has been forced to make such adjustments to its business model. 

As explained on their Facebook page, @HamiltonEatery, removing the popular hot sandwich items helps improve conditions for the few remaining employees as Colgate students return to Hamilton for the fall semester. 

“Some of our hot sandwiches were creating long wait times for customers and unrealistic expectations for our employees,” reads a Hamilton Eatery Facebook post from Aug. 25. “Our new menu streamlines our kitchen and delivers good food to our community in classic Hamilton Eatery style: clean, fast and friendly. All of the salads, deli sandwiches and wraps you know and love are still available, and we hope you will enjoy trying out our Eatery Bowls as much as we have loved creating them for you.”

In their place, the Eatery has added a variety of customizable bowls using the same base ingredients as their current salads, wraps and sandwiches. Operating Manager Clay Skinner explained that these changes can be mainly attributed to staff shortages, significantly affected by the recent relocation of one of their main employees. 

“At the end of last semester, we had a long-term employee move to his home state,” Skinner said. “This was a big loss to our kitchen crew and we have not been able to fill this position.  So we decided to try and go with the menu that we can, with the crew that we have. Our hot sandwiches were great, no doubt. But we often got backed up in that station and had to close off our online menu based on being inundated.”

On top of dealing with these adjustments, the Eatery has also been shifting towards a more delivery-friendly business model. They introduced a new online ordering system during the pandemic but noticed a decrease in the quality of their hot items while waiting for customers to pick up their orders, according to Skinner.

“While a hot sandwich like a Reuben is great fresh from the grill, 20 minutes later it’s a very different experience—a soggy mess,” Skinner said. “The menu items that we have decided to stay with are assembled faster and have a longer ‘shelf life’.  If you order one of our new grain bowls, it will taste as good in two hours as it does when it comes out of the kitchen.”

Reacting to these menu changes, students have expressed sadness over the removal of the original hot sandwiches. Sophomore Mehraz Karim frequents the Hamilton Eatery and was sad to see these items go. 

“I am definitely upset about the menu changes, but I understand why they had to happen with all of the staffing issues,” Karim said. “My favorite order was the Mac Daddy (with no ham), but now I just get two orders of the mac and cheese.”

These issues are not only affecting the Eatery, however, as similar shortages have hindered Colgate’s on-campus dining options as well. In a recent email to the community, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Chief Investment Officer JS Hope ‘97 explained that Colgate’s campus dining provider Chartwells has experienced delays in food delivery as a result of an ongoing national labor shortage. 

“We managed to overcome many challenges throughout the pandemic, yet lingering issues remain,” Hope said in the email. “These supply chain and staffing difficulties are not insurmountable; however, they will require continued patience from the community as we work to address concerns.” 

Skinner also addressed these challenges in light of the Eatery’s reduced hours, expressing that if they were more comfortably staffed, they may be able to stay open through dinner. 

“We have had a need for over two years to try and find folks who are ready to join our work team,” Skinner said. “We are only open for the shifts that we can staff. Currently we are open for six shifts, but before Covid came to town we were open 14 shifts a week (lunch and dinner, seven days a week).” 

In the coming weeks, the Eatery hopes to reopen its online ordering system that will eventually be conducive to on-campus delivery for students. For now, they continue to search for staff, according to Skinner. 

“I am holding hope that some starving Colgate kid will help us crack the code of this riddle and we can return to our normal version of an Eatery Experience,’” Skinner said. 

The Hamilton Eatery is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 41 Lebanon Street.