COVID-19 makes changes to on-campus dining

Ben Ferney

Weber State University’s dining services has been struggling to keep up revenue throughout the pandemic, while students have even more complaints.

Students can find fresh sushi prepared here on Weber State University's campus. (Steven Clift / The Signpost
Students can find fresh sushi prepared here on Weber State University’s campus. (Steven Clift / The Signpost Photo credit: Signpost Archives

Sodexo, which runs the campus dining services, has seen an 80% reduction of revenue and a 60% reduction of work force. Dining services on campus have been consolidated to the union building and all services are closed by 3:00 p.m. with the exception of Starbucks, which is open until 5:00 p.m.

Jessica Alford, general manager of dining services, said she and her team have been working hard to sustain dining while still providing great service to the 500 students living on campus.

“The global pandemic has affected us in just about every way you can imagine,” Alford said.

Alford also said they have adjusted the way they deliver food. One way they have done this is by relocating the resident dining program to the Union Building to accommodate the smaller number of students living on campus with meal plans.

Tia Jochimsen, a junior studying communication, said she missed having services at the dorms.

“I genuinely don’t understand why we eat at the union instead of the dorms,” Jochimsen said. “They used to give us exactly what we ordered, and now it’s buffet style.”

Jochimsen also said the dining services are trying new things this year, and she’s seen newer food items. She has seen an increase in Asian, Italian and Mexican cuisines but said it wasn’t always promising.

“It’s honestly hard to know if it’s worth it to walk to the union for dinner some nights,” Jochimsen said. “They have rounded out the menu to include more options this year, but it doesn’t always taste good.”

Other students living in the dorms also found the change of location to be inconvenient.

“It would be nice to have dining back at the dorms again,” said Robyn Downard, a freshman studying English. “Walking to the union each night eats up a lot of time, and it’s especially stressful on nights I have a lot of work to do.”

Moving dinner back to the dorms isn’t the only change Downard would like to see.

“There are a lot of greasy food options and eating that all the time gets gross,” Downard said. “Sometimes it’s hard to find healthy foods, and I would appreciate more healthy options.”

Alford said she and her team are working hard to find creative ideas that will help students.

“We have looked for innovative, out-of-the-box programs and solutions to sustain us during this time,” Alford said. “We don’t have a lot to lose, so we are more willing to try new things to increase revenues and maintain relationships on campus.”

Sean Lagerquist, a second-year zoology student, saw the changes as an improvement.

“Some of the food has been higher quality, and they do a great job sanitizing the tables after every meal,” Lagerquist said. “It’s been nice to take home a meal using a carrying box.”

Along with the changes being made for students, the dining service has been making changes for the staff, too.

With far fewer students on campus this year, the dining staff has had to find ways to keep their own energy and spirits up, including implementing programs to increase team morale. One way this had been done is by taking time for daily affirmations to support the staff.

Alford said this trying time has reminded her to be grateful for her team.

“On a personal level, I have really come to more fully appreciate every member on my team and the skills and talents they bring,” Alford said. “Sometimes when you go through a difficult time, the thing that stands out is the thing you are most grateful for.”