While students are learning on Albion’s campus, Metz Dining Services is working to keep their doors open and provide students with more options than they had last year.
Ron Lukehart, the district manager of Metz Culinary, said that there have been a lot of positive changes since last year- but there’s still more that can be done.
“We’ve greatly expanded what we are offering in Baldwin Hall, like a full vegetarian station, salad bar, Stone Oven Pizza, and more”, said Lukehart. “Part of the problem last year was the impact of COVID restrictions on how we could serve, no buffet, no self-serve anything. This year we’re back to a more normal dining hall operation.”
According to Lukehart, Metz had planned to expand options across retail locations; however, they are struggling with staff and supply issues. Last year, Metz housed a local sushi vendor but the vendor shut down this year because he did not have enough employees to cover his production needs.
Although hours of operation have not yet officially changed, staffing issues have the potential to present issues with facility operation. If an employee calls with COVID-19 symptoms, Metz may lose two to three additional employees due to close contact procedures until all employees cycle through testing. These situations have caused the facility to consider closing or restricting hours when they occur.
Another shift students have noticed from Metz is the reduction of Meal Exchange options across campus. According to Lukehart, this was an intentional decision.
“Last year, because we were so restricted in Baldwin Hall, we decided to expand Meal Swipes across campus,” said Lukehart. “It was our way to provide access to more options while Baldwin was severely reduced. It also helped to reduce the crowding and lines in Baldwin. This year, with the variety of food being considerably larger we went back to a more traditional Meal Exchange program.”
While Metz tries to manage the current situation, not all of the problems are internal. Supply chain shortages have hit everything from fresh meat products to specialty items and even the variety of beverages that are available. The supply chain issue is another challenge Metz faces to their ability to be more creative with food.
Metz believes they are taking steps to ensure that they can make as many positive changes to their services as possible. In response to staffing shortages, many of their on-campus venues are student-run, with Metz looking to hire around 25 new students before the end of the year. Metz is also looking to gain as much feedback from students as possible.
“I think we do a good job at meeting most of the needs, however I’m sure there are things we may miss due to these circumstances, which is why we need to continue to get in front of student groups and work toward providing the best possible service to everyone on campus,” said Lukehart.