North Porch Cafe has reopened with shorter menu, ‘enjoyable work environment’

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Teresa Aguilera, Photographer

After closing due to the impacts of COVID-19 and University of Housing and Dining Services being short-staffed, North Porch Cafe in the Memorial Union is making a comeback for Spring 2022. This illustration depicts students waiting in line and ordering from the cafe.

Emma Coke, News Contributor

After being closed for nearly two years due to staffing shortages, North Porch Cafe reopened on March 15 and will operate Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

North Porch, located in the west wing of the Memorial Union, will serve rice bowls and Banh Mi sandwiches along with various drink options. 

The reopening of North Porch comes after University Housing and Dining Services had been trying to reopen it since fall term of 2021, said Jaimie Herrera, assistant director and executive chef at UHDS. It closed in 2020 when OSU went completely remote and remained closed due to student and professional staffing shortages, according to Kerry Paterson, director of campus dining and catering at UHDS. 

“I don’t want us to open something only to have to close it again due to staffing shortages in other areas,” Paterson said. “If any readers wish to come work for Dining, we offer a fun work environment. They can apply online via the OSU student jobs page.”

Herrera said the decision to open North Porch on Tuesday of finals week was a strategic one. 

We tend to see a lighter volume of food demand on campus,” Herrera said. “This will give us the opportunity to work through the logistics and flow of prepping, cooking and service.” 

The lighter demand of food often seen during finals week will also allow for training of student and professional staff on the menu and service flow, according to Paterson. 

While our staffing remains limited, the need to offer more variety across campus for our students and staff has always been a priority, so we are going to open North Porch on a limited basis,” Herrera said.  

Other on-campus dining options that remain closed include Bing’s Cafe in Weatherford Hall and La Calle in McNary Dining Center. 

According to Paterson, La Calle will reopen for two days a week during spring term on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Bing’s Cafe, Paterson said, will remain closed until their staffing shortages improve.

North Porch first opened in 2015, according to Deb Mott, director of the MU, and the wooden counters were made from local trees, possibly from trees on campus. 

As more time passes and staffing increases, Paterson hopes that North Porch Cafe will be able to expand its hours and menu variety. 

“North Porch has been a great location for students to work as it is in the center of campus and we intend to keep it fun and an enjoyable work environment,” said Paterson. 

According to Paterson, the current North Porch menu will be a limited version of the standard full menu, but the menu and hours of service will expand as student staffing increases.

The starting menu for North Porch Cafe will include Banh Mi sandwiches with choice of pork, Thai BBQ chicken, or Asian tofu along with toppings; Asian rice bowls with yellow or red curry and a choice of Thai BBQ chicken, Asian tofu and assorting optional toppings; and assorted beverages, including Thai iced tea.

 

Reopening Update (4/11):

After being open for the first week of the spring term, the reopening of North Porch has been going well and appears to be well received by the Oregon State community, according to Paterson.

“We see a lot of returning customers, I think more faculty, staff or grad students, that recognize North Porch and know exactly what we’re doing,” said Herrera. “It seems that once the word has gotten out by the end of last week, more and more people are coming.” 

The decision to start with a smaller menu has proven beneficial as it allows the staff to work on prep. 

North Porch Cafe is even looking to set up Starship robots for the restaurant as soon as week 3 of spring term, after which they will reevaluate and work on expanding the menu and hours.

Like many other places on campus, North Porch Cafe is still struggling to hire student employees. 

“We are still looking for student staff to assist us in this space,” Paterson said. “Apply online or talk to a staff member when North Porch is open.”

When and how they expand the menu and hours all depends on how many students they can hire, according to Herrera. 

As of right now, North Porch Cafe is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“That’s the biggest hurdle, just getting reopened,” said Herrera.