We are well aware that many of you have experienced longer meal lines and fewer food choices than would normally be the case.
Regional and national conditions have conspired to jam things up in unprecedented ways. In addition to a regional labor shortage, Williams Dining Services is also contending with Covid’s continuing effects on agriculture, fuel costs, imports, and manufacturer labor markets, which have disrupted national supply chains and limited our access to some menu items.
We are making adjustments to respond to these challenges and ensure our students’ nutritional needs are being met.
Our initial steps are outlined below:
Additional Mission Meal Period
Mission will also be open on Sunday for the remainder of the fall semester, for brunch 11:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m. and dinner 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Shortening Dining Hall Lines
We are also changing buffet setups from double stations to one cohesive buffet, which will make it easier for you to serve yourself efficiently, and therefore significantly shorten wait times.
Fixing Get App Errors/Swipes at Lee’s, ’82 Grill, & Eco Cafe
We’re increasing meal capacity in ’82 Grill and Lee Snack Bar. This will reduce the frequency of GET App “capacity limit” messages, which have been frustrating. (We’re also increasing capacity limits at those venues on the app, since we’re seeing fewer faculty and staff walkups than expected.)
We’re also adjusting the number of GET orders we can receive at any given time, to reduce the number of order cancelations due to items being sold out.
Expanded Use of Points
Starting September 27, you’ll be able to use points that will be added to your account after “meal plan change week” (September 20th-24th). Twenty-One Meal Plan Holders will receive $100 in EPH Points; 14-Meal Plan Holders will receive $60 in EPH Points. These can be used in vending machines around campus, for walk-up purchases in our retail spaces (for snacks such as yogurts and trail mix), and to buy breakfast items at Eco Cafe. Since laundry’s now free, we encourage you to apply more of your points toward food instead.
We have heard from many students about the prohibition against going through Whitmans’ multiple times. This was implemented to sustain traffic flow and comply with legal capacity limits. We continue to evaluate alternatives, but this needs to stay in place for now. Please, remember that there are no limits on the amount of food you can select on the way through.
Whitmans’ is also the only dining hall that offers trays, clamshells and plates as options, so that you can take food home and reheat it in your micro-fridge.
Also, coffee and the condiments island have been located just outside of Whitmans’, so you can always go back for more of those things without creating a bottleneck in the main dining area.
We’re working to extend our Late-Night menu to include black bean quesadillas (vegetarian, gluten-free, and freshly made on site), salad (lettuce, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas) burgers and rolls, Halal burgers, made-to-order hotdogs, chicken tenders, and spiral fries.
This is the college’s problem to solve, and we apologize for the challenges. The steps above are some of the measures we’re taking to reduce congestion and move people through more efficiently while ensuring that you each can also get what you need to eat.
We’ll continue to look for additional steps and adjust the ones we’ve already taken, as students respond and as external factors evolve.
In the meantime, here are a few tips on things you can consider:
- Use the mobile GET App at Snack Bar to shorten your breakfast and lunch wait.
- You can also use GET to order a full meal from the Snack Bar from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. on weekdays if standard lunchtimes do not work with your schedule.
- Avoid lunch lines at Whitmans’ and Driscoll by using GET to order items from the ’82 Grill or Fresh ’n Go instead.
- Order items from the ’82 Grill for dinner from 4 p.m. -9 p.m.
- Try Eco Cafe for Fresh ’n Go: for any weekday needs, just place a GET pre-order the night before and your meals will be ready by 11 am. Pre-orders can be placed Sunday for Monday, Monday for Tuesday, Tuesday for Wednesday, Wednesday for Thursday, and Thursday for Friday.
- Remember that Mission will now be open on Sunday for the remainder of the fall semester, for brunch 11:30 a.m.- 1:30 p.m. and dinner 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Again, we’re committed to meeting these challenges to ensure easy access to plentiful and healthful food offerings and sincerely appreciate your patience and understanding.
Temesgen A. Araya
Director of Dining Services
Michael F. Wagner
Vice President for Finance & Operations, Treasurer
In preparation for the Fall 2021 Semester our expected Hours & Venue spaces have been updated.
OPERATIONAL CHANGES TO LATE NIGHT
You may have read about the difficult labor market employers are facing nationally and in Berkshire County. The shortage of job seekers is hitting the food industry particularly hard.
As a major food service employer Williams Dining is not immune to the problem. Due to vacancies, leaves and absences, we are currently operating 20 percent below our optimal staffing level. Despite ambitious efforts we have not yet been able to hire to fill the gaps. To navigate and ensure you a reliable dining experience, our team is revising our approach to late-night operations for fall semester.
Our continuous goal is to provide you with as many options as we can while keeping in mind our staffing constraints. . The option that makes the most sense is to focus our staffing on one location. This fall semester late-night dining will be available as a self-serve buffet-style option at Whitman’s only, during the standard 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. window. There will be no mobile or a la carte service.
Late-Night Operations for Lee Snack Bar and the ’82 Grill will be temporarily closed so that we can shift Dining staff to fully support the Whitman’s operation. These operations will operate as planned for all times other than late-night. You will be welcome to pick up food at Whitman’s Late-Night and eat in the seating areas or carry it back to your dorms.
My team and I know that the experience of Late-Night at Lee and the ’82 Grill means a lot, however, we also take pride in providing you with as many options as we can. Please know that we weighed the alternatives carefully before deciding this was the best plan to ensure consistent late-night dining for all.
Every part of our community is sharing in the compromise. We recently announced reduced hours at the Faculty Club and our catering operation, which will effect faculty and staff. I appreciate everyone’s sacrifices so that we can provide the best service possible within limits we have been faced with.
As some of you know, the Dining team conducts a very ambitious recruitment strategy, including relationships with local community colleges and technical high schools. While the pandemic disrupted some of those efforts, we are continuing to aggressively seek and recruit talent. We will provide you with an update in February about the dining outlook for spring term.
Our goal is a great dining experience, so we are grateful for the return to dining-in and the chance for you to enjoy meals together. In the meantime, thank you for your understanding. I look forward to welcoming you all back, including to Whitman’s Late-Night.
If you have questions in the meantime, please contact the Dining team at [email protected].
Director of Dining Services
Dining held a Virtual Town Hall on Friday, May 21st at 5 p.m. The meeting described plans to continuously enhance the dining experience and the ways that some of this past year’s innovations will carry over into future plans. We asked for feedback during and following the meeting, so that we could see students’ areas of excitement or answer additional questions.
Over this past year, we have adapted and adjusted our dining program to conform to COVID requirements and protocols, but have learned from you that there were some aspects that you would like to see going forward.
A few highlights of the meeting:
- Locations and hours of operation
- Production kitchen and Fresh Plant Forward Food Program
- GET Food Ordering
- Points/Bonus Meals
- Snack Bar
- Late Night