Elon University is just one of a number of institutions nationwide facing labor shortages in its dining halls. These shortages result in dish build-up, delays in mobile orders and more work for employees.
One dining worker, Kevin Taylor, has worked with Aramark Corporation — a food service company that serves large-scale facilities such as universities, hospitals and stadiums — since August 2004. Taylor, a dishwasher in Lakeside Dining Hall, has seen the staffing shortages have led to dishes piled in the hallways of Lakeside’s kitchen.
Video by Ellis Chandler.
And when he walked into work on Valentine’s Day, he saw his manager washing the dishes.
“I asked him, ‘Where’s the help?’” Taylor told Elon News Network. “He said, ‘They are scheduled off today so I had to wash all the dishes by myself.’”
For the work he does, Taylor makes an hourly rate of $17.05 and is compensated when he works overtime. He said he received a raise in December 2022 and said he usually receives a performance pay raise once a year.
While Taylor said he likes his job and the university’s campus, he said the staffing shortage creates an unrealistic amount of work to complete during a regular shift for just one person or a limited number of people.
“Just schedule enough help in the kitchen, that’s all I ask,” Taylor said. “One person can’t wash all those dishes.”
In a statement, Harvest Table Culinary Group, the independent division of Aramark that provides services to Elon University, pointed to the national staffing shortage in the industry.
“Harvest Table Culinary Group, like many others in the broader food service industry, is not immune to many of the challenges that come with a competitive job market,” said the statement, which was attributed to Laura Thompson, the resident district manager at Elon University. “We are working diligently to maintain staffing levels across our operations that allow us to continue to provide the top-notch dining experience members of the university community have come to expect from us.”
According to data from the National Restaurant Association, this issue is seen across the country, with many eating and drinking establishments still 450,000 jobs below pre-pandemic staffing levels.
Harvest Table declined to disclose the number of dining and food service employees Elon currently has. However, as of March 22, Aramark Corporation is currently hiring 30 positions on Elon University’s campus, according to its website. Positions being recruited include five cooks and six general utility workers, whose responsibilities involve maintaining dishes.
Aramark’s corporate media team did not respond to Elon News Network’s multiple requests for comment.
The issues with staffing are also seen down the hall from Lakeside Dining Hall at Winter Garden Café, which features three retail dining options. Amy Harris, a cashier at Winter Garden Cafe, said she is working more weekends than she ever has previously.
Harris said she was hired to work 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday, with Saturdays and Sundays off. Yet, she said the shortage of employees has increased her workload and affected her personal life.
“It enters my space of having to be a grandmother and being there for my granddaughter on the weekends,” Harris told Elon News Network. “I do understand that sometimes people need help, but every weekend is ridiculous.”
Harris said one way students can help with the staffing shortage is by mobile ordering.
“The students have already helped,” Harris said. “Some of them know how to just go ahead and do their mobile orders because sometimes they come in and it takes a really long time for them to get their food.”
Fiona McAllister contributed to the reporting of this story.