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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, May 25, 2024

Tufts Dining experiences long lines, labor shortages

The entrance of Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center is pictured.

Students received an email from Student Life on Oct. 1 addressing the long lines and extended wait times at Tufts Dining locations this semester. 

The email, which was signed by Dean of Student Affairs Camille Lizarríbar, Director of Tufts Dining Patti Klos and Associate Dean of Student Affairs for the SMFA Laura DaRos, attributed the long lines at Medford/Somerville Campus dining locations and the SMFA Café to labor shortages and supply chain interruptions.

“We are reaching out so that you know that we have heard your concerns regarding wait times at some of our dining centers during peak times, and that we are working hard to resolve the current situation. Unfortunately, the challenges we are facing are significant,” the email said.

In an interview with the Daily, Klos said that Tufts Dining is seeking to reduce wait times by adding takeout options and using technology to move students through lines faster.

“We had some technology challenges, but we are able to now have two greeter stations where you check in [at Dewick] so ... we can be swiping cards twice as fast,” Klos said. ”Both Carmichael and Dewick are planning to launch their own take-out options.”

Klos explained that Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center is experiencing a new 3 p.m. rush, which she presumes is due to class scheduling changes.

Klos expects wait times to get shorter once more dining workers are hired.

“It's taking longer to fill openings, I think, because of all the labor challenges that restaurants and businesses and everyone's facing," Klos said. "As we're able to get more staff hired and onboarded, that will enable us to speed service."

Klos added that students make up a significant portion of the Tufts Dining workforce.

"We have opportunities for more students to work and we’re hoping that we'll be able to offer more jobs to more students ... that should help us improve our service."

Klos addressed speculation that Carmichael Dining Center has lost popularity following its rebranding as Fresh at Carmichael and shift to a gluten-, peanut- and tree nut-free menu. She said that the percentage of students who dine at Carmichael has not shifted significantly this year. 

“I monitor the number of people that go at a meal period to Carmichael and Dewick ...  it’s almost exactly what it was in 2019,” Klos said. "Somewhere between 35 and 40% [of] students will go to Carmichael for lunch and dinner and 60% or 65% to Dewick."

Klos said that the Commons Marketplace, Hotung Café and Mugar Café have no plans to accept meal swipes this year as they did during the 2020–21 academic year.

“We kept swipes available at Kindlevan and their volume has tripled,” Klos said. “Mugar, Hotung and Commons aren't very large; they really don't have the infrastructure to sustain that for a long period of time. That was simply a COVID response.”

Although Klos expressed optimism that Tufts Dining will improve its efficiency, some students' criticisms of their dining hall experiences extended beyond long lines and wait times.

Nathan Reichert, a sophomore, noted broken ice and ice cream machines in Dewick and a consistent lack of knives in the silverware section. 

“They should keep their dining halls from being in disrepair, because right now ... the machines don't function, they don't have cutlery readily available,” Reichert said.

Nafisa Munawarah, a sophomore, expressed annoyance at the long lines in the dining halls, particularly downhill. Munawarah also described a lack of desserts at Carmichael and echoed Reichert's concern about broken equipment.

“I don't understand the no desserts at Carm. That's just sad, what about people who have to eat there?” Munawarah said. “A lot of the machines are broken, like the water machines are often broken, which is really annoying because everyone wants water.”

Despite these ongoing problems, Munawarah added that some of the new solutions have genuinely improved students' experiences in the dining halls.

“I know that they changed stuff around so you can roam around and not have to stand in line. That’s nice,” Munawarah said.

Klos explained that Tufts Dining is continuing to adapt to changing public health conditions but cannot predict when full normalization of dining services to pre-pandemic conditions will happen.

“We're just here to meet the moment and do the best we can to provide these services with all the impacts that we're facing that we really have no control over," Klos said.