In a normal semester, MU Campus Dining Services employs about 700 students. This semester, there are only 378.
Campus Dining Services is operating on about half of its normal staff while still serving 8,556 students on campus who have purchased dining plans.
This problem is nothing new to Columbia, as businesses in the area and across the country struggle to employ enough staff to stay open, the Missourian has reported. Without enough student employees, both Columbia businesses and Campus Dining Services have had to scale back hours.
Campus Dining Services is focusing on keeping full-service dining establishments open to serve the greatest number of students, MU spokesperson Christian Basi said. These locations include buffet-style locations such as Plaza 900, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
While full-service dining locations continue to open daily, some cafe-style restaurants have been unable to fill the full-time positions needed to open. The J Cafe has had to stop service as a result, with no plan for opening in sight. Potential Energy Cafe, located inside Lafferre Hall, has remained closed during the first few weeks of the fall semester, but Basi said Campus Dining Services is hopeful the cafe will open in late September.
MU students are feeling the effects. MU student Kiersten Dolan has particularly struggled with reconciling a busy schedule full of Greek life and classes with reduced dining hours and long lines. When classes get out, students flood dining locations.
“It’s just so hard to eat when I’m hungry when everyone’s eating at the same time,” she said.
MU student Zack Hohenstein recently tweeted at MU Campus Dining Services mentioning the long lines during dining hours.
“I am begging y’all to open more student dining,” he wrote.
Similar to Dolan, Hohenstein has tried to alter his normal eating schedule to fit around the long lines found at typical mealtimes. While he understands COVID-19 has made things difficult, it can still be frustrating.
“I would try to hold it off until 3 when the lines are lower, but a lot of these places also close temporarily in the middle of the day during those hours, so that’s not always possible,” he said.
Basi recommended students take time to plan ahead for longer wait times or choose another dining location. The free GoMizzou app is available for students to check dining hall hours from their phones.
As employees take on more responsibilities to make up for short staffing, Basi emphasized the importance of keeping employees in mind when eating at MU dining locations.
“Everyone is definitely going to be working much harder and potentially having to deal with more difficult situations,” he said. “Offer a kind word or two.”