Over the past year, Atwood has seen changes to its dining options because of a transition in food-providers. With Sodexo no longer the campus’s primary dining service due to an expiration of contracts, Chartwells is now the service provider and according to Mitch Karstens, executive director of Atwood Memorial Center, more changes are in the works.
“The second phase will be renovating the area where Burrito Bowl, Frëshens and Chef Jet are, but we’re not quite sure what that will be yet,” Karstens said.
Students were enthused with the addition of Erberts and Gerberts Subs and Chick-Fil-A to the main floor, and a Denny’s Den in the basement.
However, these changes have not been easy for student consumers or Chartwells management. Multiple complaints from students show that service is slow, workers are unprepared and food quality is poor.
“I had slow, bad service at The Den in Atwood. I ordered just a shake and it took 15 minutes at least for it. The workers kept putting their friends before the other customers and it was just extremely unorganized,” said SCSU student Darcy Koepp.
Most of the complaints come from the Denny’s located downstairs, where slow service continues to trend.
“I waited for about 30 minutes to get my food and I went up to the counter to ask and they said they forgot to make it,” said SCSU student Haley Engler. “All of them were standing up there not doing anything because they had no other customers, and so after I asked them that’s when they started making my food which they said they also didn’t know what I had ordered so they needed my receipt to show them what I ordered.”
Another student, Adrain Wilson, said she and her boyfriend had their debit card information stolen from Chick-Fil-A.
“I attempted to see if they have cameras to see the time that they bought it because my online transactions show that the time and the manager at Chick-Fil-A was like ‘no we have no cameras,’ and that’s what the manager at the market store and Denny’s said too. I used it at Chick-fil-A and the Market Place.”
Quality of food was another primary concern amongst students who frequent Atwood, saying food tasted old and was often “flavorless.”
“I had a bad experience with the international market at the underground of Atwood. I believe it’s Chef Jet. Before, we got like a bunch of options and get a lot of food, but since then, the options are limited and for $8, I get only one meat and one veggie,” said SCSU student Brandon Montana. “I could easily go to Chipotle and get a bowl for that price or an extra dollar. And the rice is hard, and the dishes are borderline flavorless.”
Ryan Dale, director of operations at Chartwells, said transitions on a new campus are always difficult the first year. Dale explains that with all of the new restaurant chains inside and the merger between Caribou and Einstein, people are still getting used to new positions and changes in dining options.
“It’s all about understanding the traffic flow and the patterns, what are going to be your busiest hours, the different schedules for employees, we have seen struggles with the Caribou-Einstein combo. The problem in the past was that Caribou had its own location and so did Einstein, so meeting the needs of both customers has been a challenge,” Dale said.
When it comes to slow service, Dale said a lot of the workers in Atwood are students working their first job, so they’re still getting used to performing in a fast-paced environment and many of the students employed by Atwood are international, so for many of them, they’re working a job where they have to communicate with others, and English is not their primary language.
“A lot of the international students are new to campus and for many of them it’s their first job, we do this as a part of the Student Ambassador program where we find key student leaders and help bridge the gap between the international students and management,” he said.
Dale also mentions the reason why Denny’s food takes so long to prepare is because of their standard of “made from scratch.”
“Getting them trained to the Denny’s standard has taken a lot of time, but I think we’ve made some good strides. Your burgers are made from scratch, your chicken breasts are cooked to order, the average wait time in Denny’s is about eight to 10 minutes.”
Both Karstens and Dale mentioned there is a system called Chat Back where students can send their questions, complaints and concerns. Both said they want to let students know they want to hear feedback and will listen to any concerns.