2014, article, denison, features

Students share their experiences as dining hall workers

Max Collins, a junior from Stamford, Conn., does not have a typical on-campus job such as working at the library, being a tour guide or working in a department. Instead, Collins works for Bon Appetit at Curtis. While it may not be the most glamorous job, Collins said he enjoys the people he works with and that he likes his job. I caught up with him in the Curtis Veggie room to ask him more about his job.

Debbie: What’s it like working at Curtis?
Max: I really like it. Everyone back there is nice. It’s a lot of fun. The students are generally really nice. I get a lot of ‘Hi, how are you?’s or at the very least most of them say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’

D: What’s your least favorite part about working?
M: The cleanup is usually bad because some students are disgusting. Sometimes there is food all over the tables and the floor. People will leave spilled juice and stuff like that. Sometimes serving can get kind of stressful on days when we have something that’s really popular like chicken parmesan. It’s a constant stream of kids and I don’t get any down time for four hours.  

D: How many hours a week do you work?
M: I usually work 15. Most work 10 and some work like 20. Then there are the full time workers who work about 40 hours.

D: How did you get the job?
M: A friend of mine told me about it. We applied and I ended up getting it, not her. I felt bad for stealing the job but she’s fine with it.

D: What’s the hiring process?
M: It wasn’t bad. I handed in my application and a week later I got a call. I came in for a first interview and it was mostly a get to know you type interview. The second interview was more formal and informational. Then I had to go to an orientation where I learned the rules of the land.

D: What’s a typical shift like?
M: I punch in a half hour before the dining hall opens. I make sure everything is clean, prepare and put up the food. I’m serving food during the big rushes at dinner and lunch time. After the rush, I’ll go see who I can help. I’ll clean the counters and tables. When the dining hall closes, we make sure the leftover food is taken away to charity. We clean our work stations, vacuum and go home.   

Gabby Vecchio, a sophomore from Cleveland, Ohio opened up about her time working for both Sodexo and Bon Appetit. Vecchio has worked at Huffman, Curtis, Slayter and has been involved with selling concessions for a couple years. I met up with Vecchio in the Slayter pit to chat about what she liked about her job.  

D: How many hours a week do you work?
G: Well, last semester I was working 27 hours a week. So I was pretty much full time. I’ve been trying to get my hours reduced but they are understaffed. I was able to buy a car with the money that I made.

D: What’s been some differences that you’ve noticed between Sodexo and Bon Apetit?
G: I think most people don’t realize how sustainability focused Bon Appetit is. They’re really picky and concerned about composting and sorting. I think it’s very worthwhile. They try and get whatever they can from local farmers too.

D: What’s it like working at Huffman?
G: It’s very friendly. Most people are there because they want to be and they enjoy working there. I like working when I’m in contact with the students like serving in the main line.

D: What’s your least favorite part about working?
G: Probably just waiting around when it’s slow. It gets kind of long sometimes. Usually at dinner it’s not a problem but after 7 it gets kind of slow.

D: How did you get your job?
G: A friend got a job in the dining hall and when she left Denison I took over her job. I thought it was really brave of her to work for the dining hall. They started me out with really short hours but gradually.

D:  Do you think you’ll continue to work?

G: I hope to get more into catering and concession stands. I like setting up and running my own thing. It’s kind of like owning your own business but you’re under supervision. I think it’s better to work catering as a student because the hours are more flexible.

2014, debbie, debbiegillum, features, writing

Students taking food from dining halls

March 11, 2014 Denisonian in Features

Put down the cookie: Students taking food from dining halls

Have you ever taken something from the dining hall? A cookie? A bagel? Backpack full of bananas? Well, that’s actually a violation of Denison’s policy.
The policy that was set by Denison and is enforced by both Sodexo and Bon Appetit is that “nothing can leave the dining hall,” said Jennifer McGann, general manager for dining services.
If every student took food then Bon Appetit could lose a significant amount of money. McGann did not think that the current state of things was an “epidemic” but she did warn that if things get too out of control, meal plan prices could increase.
Students are not allowed to bring in their own containers such as ziploc bags or tupperware containers.
McGann said they try to be respectful of students by letting them bring their bags and backpacks into the dining hall and hope they reciprocate that respect by not filling their backpacks with apples.
The Bon Appetit staff does not rudely confront people who make a sandwich and stash it in their backpack for later.
“We want to be gracious enough to avoid putting anyone in an awkward situation. We want people to enjoy themselves while they are dining here so we don’t like to step in and mar that experience, but if someone is removing items they shouldn’t, we will have to ask them not to do so,” said Julie Mulisano, the dining hall manager at Curtis.
Mulisano said that students feel at home in Denison’s dining halls and she thinks that contributes to the number of students taking food outside. “The familiarity of the dining halls breaks down some of the typical barriers students have about taking things,” she said.
Another problem in the dining halls is that some students sneak in during busy periods such as lunch and dinner.
“If we see this happen, we will politely ask to see their student ID and then make a photocopy of it. If they are uncooperative, then we will call security, especially if they are repeat offenders,” said McGann. They ask security to help them deal with such matters.
Bon Appetit works closely with Denison security. They have recently asked security to better monitor the cameras in the Slayter snackbar.
“We’ve noticed a lot of items missing when we do inventory. We’re watching it a lot more closely,” said McGann.
She said that Bon Appetit loses more money when students take pre-packaged items from Slayter rather than fruit or vegetables from the dining halls, because those items “have a very small profit margin,” said McGann.
To try and make Slayter less troublesome, Bon Appetit managers have talked about putting up mirrors, having security guards or rearranging the food in Slayter because the problem “seems to have gotten worse in the winter,” said McGann.  
 In dining halls, both McGann and Mulisano have noticed that salt and pepper shakers, hot sauce bottles, silverware, cups, bowls, and plates often go missing.
“When I walk from Curtis to Huffman, every day I see a cup with melted mint chocolate chip ice cream on that bridge. And every day I pick it up and take it to Huffman,” said McGann, “I wish they would have just finished it inside the dining hall or just drop it off at the other dining hall.”
Mulisano said that the housekeeping staff returns boxes full of silverware and other diningware that is left behind in student’s rooms at the end of the year.
What about filling your tumblr with coffee or soda? McGann said, “That’s fine. It’s not ideal. But it happens.”
Students have gotten quite creative with taking items from the dining hall.
“I’ve noticed two or three times that somebody brings a blender in and fills it with 8 scoops of ice cream and milk and they take it back to their room,” recalled Mulisano. She said she was waiting until the student was alone and then would carefully confront them.
Another student took a whole loaf of bread and made multiple peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
“Students often take the decor, such as a red pepper or cucumber. But I’ll see people with five vegetables. We wish students would not grocery shop in the dining hall,” said Mulisano. The produce that is used for decor around the dining hall is used for later cooking and is not wasted.
Kiira Harkins, a junior from Chillicothe, Ohio, said that she has absolutely taken things from the dining halls. “It’s mostly little things, like apples or muffins when I’m in a hurry,” she said. She said that she only takes small food items.
“I’ve never taken anything larger,” Harkins said, “But, the rumor on the streets is that it is quite the mark of accomplishment to successfully filch one of the cups.”
Cora McHugh, a senior from Dexter, Mich., said she has seen students put food in their bags or in containers they have brought. She admits that she also occasionally takes out food, but only small things.
“It’s mostly fruit or a cookie. I sometimes used to make a little baggie out of a napkin and take some cereal,” said McHugh.  
Overall, McGann thinks that Denison students are very polite, respectful and behave like adults. She said that makes it a great place to work.