West Virginia University announced last Wednesday that a number of dining services across the Morgantown campus will be closed for the foreseeable future as WVU and Sodexo work to improve labor conditions.
The Sept. 1 announcement comes as a response to the recent staffing shortages among university food locations and is the continuation of dining scale backs that have been taking place in recent weeks.
Leah Brennsteiner, a former employee at the Seneca Hall Starbucks, said ongoing shortages during the pandemic created some workplace challenges.
“I feel like with the change from online to in person, a lot of people just couldn’t make certain hours. There was more of a time crunch,” Brennsteiner said. “Their managers were really good, and they treated their employees great. It was just a stressful time because we also had a lot of new hires.”
To combat this, the University and the Sodexo Catering Company have partnered to increase incentives at these locations, including refer-a-friend bonuses and on-the-spot hiring. They have also been active in job fairs and have increased the maximum work hours for students to 28 hours per week.
“WVU Dining Services has been working diligently all summer to get staffing numbers to pre-COVID levels,” said WVU Dining Services HR Manager Tiffany Peden. “However, as other restaurants in the area have also been getting back to full-scale operations, there is a shortage of available labor in the local food industry.”
“Additionally, despite the many safety precautions we have in place, many people are still not comfortable working in busy environments due to the pandemic, so we have seen less applications,” she added.
The Downtown dining venues that will be affected by these closures are Which Wich, Tres Habaneros and Eliza’s in the Downtown Library. In addition, Da Vinci’s, located in the Evansdale Library, will be closed along with Burgershop in the Health Sciences Center.
This follows the University’s announcement on Aug. 25 that Taziki’s Mediterranean Café in the Mountainlair will be closing daily at 4 p.m. in addition to staying closed on weekends.
Another casualty, popular Evansdale Crossing spot Let’s Go... Tacos will also be temporarily closing, while neighboring destination Hugh Baby’s announced they will not be open on weekends for the time being.
Along with the significant drawback caused by limited staff, a number of WVU food services have seen delays in storage shipments.
“There were a lot of global supply chain issues throughout COVID,” said Assistant Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Erin Newmeyer. “Ted Svehlik, the [associate vice president] for Auxiliary and Business Services and the procurement team at West Virginia University were out ahead of that pretty early. So, we were fortunate to not have a lot of procurement challenges.”
In addition to these closures, a number of locations in both the Downtown and Evansdale campuses operated under modified hours for the Labor Day holiday. These locations returned to normal service on Tuesday, Sept. 7.
A full list of impacted dining venues can be found at the WVU Dining website.
“We’re always looking to hire. We have positions available for students as well as full-time employees,” Newmeyer said. “As the semester rolls on and students are looking for additional employment opportunities, dining is a great place to work.”