Understaffing at MU causes long lines

Off the Quad in the Memorial Union remains closed to diners on Oct. 4. For now the popular restaurant is only open for delivery and mobile orders.

Adam Figgins, News Contributor

Since in-person classes have resumed, restaurant closures and understaffing in Oregon State University’s Memorial Union have caused line buildups, but as more restaurants reopen, these lines are beginning to shrink.

While lines usually only filled the area closest to the vendors pre-pandemic, students waiting for Panda Express and TOGO’s orders now form lines that extend into the seating area that makes up the western side of the MU. JavaStop, a popular coffee shop in the MU, has also recently had long lines that extend out into the hallway.

Kerry Paterson, the director of residential dining and catering, attributed the extended closure of these restaurants to understaffing. 

Similar to the national service industry employment challenges, we are working to hire several hundred student staff positions and are unfortunately seeing a lack of applicants,” Paterson said. “We welcome any OSU student interested to apply now for one of our flexible jobs that works around student schedules. There are several benefits, including set schedules, and a 50% meal perq during your shift.”

Students who are interested can apply for University of Housing and Dining Services jobs.

Paterson said unemployment is not an issue unique to OSU. 

“Universities, restaurants and many other businesses are also having a hard time hiring staff,” Paterson said.  “For example, there is a large shortage of truck drivers which is impacting the supply chain and ingredients for our menu items.”

As employment increases, more restaurants are reopening.

As of Oct. 4, Off the Quad is serving food via the Starship app for robot delivery or pick-up. When staffing levels rise, Off the Quad will begin to offer sit-down dining, increased hours and an expanded menu.

Unlike Off the Quad, North Porch has not reopened in any capacity.

According to Paterson, even despite being understaffed, UHDS is still trying to help the OSU community to have positive dining experiences that will enrich their lives and help them thrive.

“Once our staffing levels are stabilized, we’ll spend the academic year continuing to reintroduce sustainability measures that may have been discontinued since the start of the pandemic, such as the Eco2Go containers,” Paterson said.

MU Director Deb Mott, who oversees TOGO’s and Panda Express, also oversaw Joe’s Burgers, which is no longer in the MU. Mott said this was because Joe’s Burgers changed their business model and elected to not return.

Blake Sandahl is a student at OSU studying mechanical engineering and said overall the wait for Panda Express didn’t disrupt his day too much.

“It’s definitely really busy lately. I was here two years ago and it’s way worse than [it used to be],” Sandahl said.

Panda Express opened the week of Sept. 27 and TOGO’s opened later that Friday.

“We are actively searching for a restaurant to move into the empty space. The MU Student Advisory Board will be reviewing business proposals,” Mott said.  “A group of faculty and staff have come together and offered to read through proposals as well.  We at the MU are well supported by student voices and campus partners.  If anyone is interested to know more they can contact me [via email].”

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