Dining Hall Understaffing Leads to Reduced Options, Longer Waits for Students

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UNC is looking to fill 50 student positions and 16 full-time staff positions in the dining halls. A lack of staffing has led to the closure of Tobey-Kendel Dining Room. Photo courtesy UNC Dining Services

The dining halls on UNC’s campus have a notable history of long lines, minimal options and sometimes sub-par food, but since students have been back for the fall 2021 semester, things have been noticeably worse, especially at Holmes Hall. 

Staffing shortages, as well as an inability to get ingredients and options for students with dietary restrictions, have been particularly troublesome for the dining services. Like across the whole country, there are a lot of open jobs that are not being filled. This leads to a supply chain shortage, and food isn’t making it to UNC’s kitchen, where there are also not enough people to work.

A student working at the dining hall makes minimum wage, doesn’t receive a shift meal and is now taking on extra work because there are just not enough hands to scoop food. This creates an undesirable work environment, which creates the vicious cycle of no new employees coming along and current employees being unhappy at their jobs. 

The new Klawz Corner inside the University center offers some much-needed variety to on-campus dining, but even retail dining is affected by staffing and food shortages. Photo by Katherine Stahla.

The COVID-19 pandemic also was extremely difficult on the dining options on campus. Harsh restrictions were put in place to help protect the health and safety of those eating on campus. This year, with the on-campus experience back in full swing, it is possible that there was not enough preparation for the influx of students that are now living and eating on campus. 

One student who works in the dining hall has said that they tried to end their employment multiple times and was flat out rejected and continued to work there. They also expressed that the people who work at the dining hall full time have less consideration for students who work part time for scholarship. The employee also said that students who are in supervisor positions take on a lot more work than they should and are underappreciated for their extra work. 

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These issues with the dining hall are not at the fault of anyone in particular, but it comes at a bad time because the dining options at the University Center food court have not been open this year, nor is Bear’s Bistro, which were both options where students could use a meal plan swipe. Now, in an unforeseen twist of events, Holmes Dining Hall is the only option where students can use a meal swipe for all-you-can-eat, cafeteria style eating. Tobey-Kendel Dining Room closed after the first weekend of October, significantly limiting the options for students on central campus. 

For these first six weeks of the year, Tobey-Kendel had only one line open, compared to the four stations that had been available in the past. Unfortunately, the quality has gone significantly downhill as well. Tobey-Kendel used to have many delicious options but did not have the staff to maintain this. Now with its closing, this will bring more crowding into Holmes. The university has also offered for on-campus students with meal plans to have meal swipes to use at Subway and Einstein’s Bagels. The closing of Tobey-Kendel brings many more issues to the table for dining services and the problems that have already been happening up to this point. There will be updates to follow as information becomes available to the staff and students who depend on the dining options on campus.

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