Dining Services is working to rebuild its restaurant operation on the Pullman campus after the global pandemic forced major layoffs last year.
This process could take much of the fall, as the department struggles to hire and train hundreds of new employees. As a result, food services will not be able to organize most events, including the traditional All Campus picnic, which is being downsized and refocused.
The goal is to re-accept most restoration requests by November 1. In the meantime, departments should continue to reach out to see what is possible based on staff and schedule.
âIt’s hard to be in the hospitality industry and have to say no,â said Sarah Larson, director of food services.
But with a large majority of students staying at home in the last academic year, Dining Service saw the demand for its services and its available budget plummet to the point where sweeping staff cuts were needed.
In the fall of 2019, food services served 899,900 meals. Fewer than 82,000 meals were served throughout the fall 2020 semester. Before the pandemic, the department had around 800 part-time students. Fewer than 150 were employed amid the pandemic. Dining Services was also forced to discontinue its restaurant service due to lack of demand during the pandemic.
As the pandemic begins to abate, food services are now faced with the task of rebuilding the team.
âOur capacity will be limited in scope and scale for large events and catering for much of the fall,â said Larson. âOur top priority is to serve the student body in residence, with other services becoming more robust as we can. “
Dining Services has partnered with ALIVE to recruit potential students when they visit the Pullman campus for orientation. Much of the onboarding process for new employees will not take place until students arrive for the fall semester.
âWe will be ramping up operations in the first few weeks of the semester as quickly as possible,â Larson said.
In response to these challenges, the traditional welcome picnic is revamped to become the New Cougs BBQ. Only new first and second year residency students will receive food to meet the food service requirements.
âThe energy that comes from this welcoming picnic is unique to WSU and truly characterizes the Coug spirit in an authentic way and creates a special feeling for our students,â said Larson.
Departments looking to host events this fall should contact Amy Gibson within Food Services to see what options are available, Larson said. Food and beverage services will not be able to accommodate all events, but will do their best to help units and recommend the best options. Departments may also go outside the university for their catering needs, but catering labor shortages are widespread and can affect the ability of businesses to meet demand.
Dining Services expects to be able to fully support the Celebrating Excellence Awards banquet in March.
For questions about catering availability, please contact Amy Gibson at 509-335-3570 or by emailing [email protected].