Citing ‘Staffing Challenges,’ BW Dining Temporarily Slashes Hours

This academic year, Baldwin Wallace University introduced several changes to its dining services offerings. A reduction in the hours of operation of multiple locations, which Charles Fairchild, director of dining services, called a consequence of “significant staffing challenges,” has left some residential students frustrated.

The dining room inside Lang Hall closes on the weekends, as does The Hive in the lower level of the Student Union. The newly reconfigured Colony Café inside Strosacker Hall is only open from the afternoon to evening on Sunday. Aside from a few hours during the Homecoming festival earlier this month, the BW-operated Starbucks coffee shop has been closed on the weekends as well.

“Basically, everything about [dining] becomes more difficult, I’d say, on the weekends,” senior Chris Nadar told The Exponent.

Nadar lives on campus and does not have a car. He relies on his Prime dining plan for all his meals. He has a class on Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. and said he’s had trouble eating breakfast before his class because the Union dining hall was not open when he has arrived before his class. The Starbucks closure means there’s nowhere for him to use his swipes to buy coffee drinks on the weekends.

“The weekend is when you’re cranking out assignments, or you’re hungover, and you need a s–t ton of coffee,” Nadar said. “And there’s just nowhere [to get it.]”

Fairchild said that BW Dining is short 31 full- and part-time employees compared to normal operations. The Starbucks location on Front Street, which is staffed by Dining Services, is down 15. As a result of these staff shortages, Fairchild said certain decisions had to be made to keep core operations running.

“Until a week ago, we were very, very challenged with being able to keep our locations open,” Fairchild said. Having to close Starbucks on the weekends was something we certainly did not want to do.”

According to Fairchild, the decision to close Starbucks on the weekends is not one that only involved BW. The school had to amend their contract with the Starbucks corporation and commit to hiring enough staff to be able to reopen with full hours by Jan. 1 of next year, a deadline Fairchild believes BW will exceed thanks to an influx in applicants and new hires.

Fairchild said BW has been aggressively advertising employment opportunities to reduce the shortage. BW offers full time employees reciprocal scholarship opportunities through Tuition Exchange among other benefits, and recently increased its baseline pay for dining workers to $12.50 an hour.

“I would say [the increased pay] has certainly sparked some interest in folks, some of the workers,” Fairchild said. “Then, once people are interviewed and they see how beautiful BW is and we talk about the culture and see the staff and the students, that’s really a big selling point too.”

Another consequence of the reduced weekend options is that Nadar has found himself wasting meal swipes. His dining plan includes 21 meals per week and costs $3,174 and is also required for all first-year resident students according to the BW Dining Services website. Leftover unused meal swipes do not carry over from week to week. And because so many dining options are closed on the weekends, including the new Stinger’s Market convenience store which replaced the former Buzzy’s General Store and now resides in the CIG, it is harder to use all the meal swipes Nadar paid for.

“I would imagine the underlying issue would be just staff, just not having enough people. And because there’s so few people working, they don’t want the same 10 people to come in on the weekends too, when they finally get a break, which I understand,” Nadar said. “Having said that, the dining plan isn’t cheap. And it’s one thing if these meal swipes would at least roll over, but they don’t.”

Fairchild told The Exponent that he would work with the Campus Access Services department to investigate the possibility of having meal swipes roll over to a few days at the beginning of the next week rather than becoming unavailable at 12:01 a.m. every Monday. Dining Services is also working to institute a “block plan” that would allot students a certain number of meals for each semester, which is proposed to begin by the Fall 2022 semester.

“That would give the student body as a whole, all semester, instead of having this weekly weekend stress of having to use up these meal swipes,” Fairchild said.

Fairchild said that so far this semester, even the main dining hall inside the Union has not yet had enough employees to operate at full capacity at night. He hopes that the reduced options are temporary as the university is beginning to hire more staff and pointed to recent initiatives dining services are taking to expand dining options, including the return of popular sushi nights.

The goal, Fairchild said, is that all dining locations – Stinger’s Market, Starbucks, and the Colony Café included – return to regular hours, including on nights and weekends. BW is also looking into expanding hours at Lang Dining Hall. The timeline as it stands now is for full implementation of these upgrades by spring, which Fairchild acknowledged isn’t as soon as he would like.

“All of us here want it to be tonight,” Fairchild said. “We have some really good plans coming up, rolling over the summer. […] The last thing we want to do is have less offerings out there. […] We’re really hoping that getting a baseline, larger core staff will help [with] that tremendously.”