Staff shortages in UT dining halls have an impact on students

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WATE) – With more students on the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus this fall, mess halls and other restaurants on campus are feeling tense. There are simply not enough workers to meet the demand.

Adam Albaba is a junior at UT. He said the lines he has experienced this year are much worse compared to pre-pandemic times. “There’s usually a line, like usually triple what I’ve been used to since my first year here,” Albaba said.

Albaba added that outside of the dining halls, restaurants on campus are also limited. “For people who don’t have mess rooms, we get a specific amount to use for UT-owned restaurants, but it’s a little difficult to do.” He said he waited between an hour and an hour and a half for food. He says those long lines even made him late for class.

“This is what bothered me the most, students should never have to worry about being late for class because of the queues for food,” the deputy vice chancellor said by Acting University Operations, Brian Browning.

Browning said there were still 200 openings in campus food services. He added that this was a huge improvement since the start of the semester.

“We have defined expectations for our entrepreneur in terms of availability and quality of service. We have been working with the supplier since the start of the semester to improve the service and will continue these efforts. The vendor is actively working to hire more staff to extend restaurant hours across campus. Our residential catering units have extended hours of operation and are open 7 days a week. We take seriously our commitment to providing our students with fast, convenient and quality food options on campus.

Browning also shared the additional steps the university took in the first semester to alleviate the problem. They are described below.

  • Brought food trucks to campus that accommodate Dining Dollars, Flex and VolCard accounts
  • Added premium express take-out locations and increased additional meal options in national brands and POD markets
  • Gave each meal plan holder $ 300 in bonus meal dollars and each flexible plan holder $ 50 in bonus meal dollars.

Browning said it was these steps that cut the lines. “We started and focused on residential foodservice units, major campus retail locations on our main campus, and then we work from there. “

He hopes that these are all stages that will soon be able to provide them with a full staff.

An Aramark statement sent to WATE 6 On Your Side can be found below.

While the unprecedented nature of the pandemic has created national supply chain issues and workforce challenges that are unusual in scale and scope, the University of Tennessee’s restoration team ‘endeavor to do everything possible to mitigate these problems in a proactive manner. We are happy to say that we have made significant progress since the start of the semester: long lines have all but disappeared, our staff has steadily increased, our location and time changes are minimal, and the positive feedback from students indicate that they notice the improvement.

The University of Tennessee and Aramark are accepting applications for part-time and full-time positions. There are also several resources on campus for food insecure residential and non-residential students, including the Big Orange Pantry, which provides emergency food assistance.


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