The Sayles-Hill Cafe has been operating at reduced hours this term as a result of the severe understaffing they are experiencing. Currently the cafe is open Monday-Thursday from 7:30a.m.-8p.m., Fridays from 7:30a.m.-12a.m., Saturdays from 9a.m.-12a.m., and Sundays from 12p.m.-8p.m.
Fred Wroblewski has worked with Carleton Bon Appetit for 11 years. He has spent three years in his current position, Retail Manager, at Sayles, where he is in charge of employees and staffing. According to him, Sayles is short four closing positions and one day shift. He said, “This is the shortest I’ve seen this place staffed since I started.”
Students, as well as staff hope to see Sayles return to its normal hours. These would be Monday–Thursday from 7:30a.m.-12a.m., Fridays from 7:30a.m.-1a.m., Saturdays from 9am-1am, and Sundays from 12p.m.-12a.m.
However, this won’t be possible until the cafe can hire some more staff. Wroblewski, stated that with their current staff, they can’t have Sayles operating at the normal hours, because it would mean forcing some staff members to work late into the night, and then come back and open the next morning.
Not being able to get food on campus after 8p.m. most days is inconvenient for students, especially as college students are generally known for keeping later hours. Xander Roti ’22 used to frequently buy food at Sayles in the evenings and said that now he sometimes wishes Sayles was open later, “It is nice to have a place to grab food on campus after the dining halls close down, or to grab a quick snack during a study break,” Roti said.
Eric Rasmussen, Director of Operations, recognized students’ frustrations with the new schedule. “The plan is to get back to normal late-night operating hours as soon as possible, as staffing levels improve,” he said.
According to Wroblewski, hiring more staff is a slow process. Bon Appetit advertises job postings on recruiting sites like Indeed, and they also rely on word of mouth. He added, “It’s hard to get employees back from COVID,” referring to the spring of 2020 when Bon Appetit had to furlough half their staff because of the college closing due to the pandemic.
However, this problem is not confined to Carleton: understaffing has affected many restaurants and food service companies in the past year. According to data collected by the National Restaurant Association, “eating and drinking places remain nearly 1 million jobs – or 8 percent – below their pre-pandemic employment peak.”
A New York Times article offered a few explanations for the lack of employees. Some people have found other stabler jobs and some have left the restaurant industry because of concerns over COVID-19. Others have left simply because they can make as much, if not more, by collecting unemployment benefits.
These statistics and reasons are not a reflection of Carleton Bon Appetit staff; as a company that is contracted by the college to provide dining services, the situation is likely a little different than the restaurant industry. Still, these facts reflect an alarming trend of understaffing in an important industry: one that feeds us.