Re: Food Service Complaints

Dear WCU,

Certainly there will be (and have been) other, better, food-service-endorsed responses to the series of attacks Aramark has suffered during its term on campus, but as a former WCU Dining employee, I just can’t help putting my two cents in.

Students who have been here longer than one month, or who eat somewhere other than Chick-Fil-A, might recognize me as Little Caesar’s main delivery person two years ago or, until recently, as That-Red-Haired-Boy-Who’s- Always-In-The Cyber-Cafe. I’ve worn many hats during my four years here, and, yes, the occasional hairnet too. Since I’m in the position now of not having to rely on Aramark for a paycheck or job security, and since I’ve also had the pleasure of eating the food that we’ve cooked for almost four years as an on-campus student, I think it might be up to me to let you know some of what gets lost in the translation from workplace shop-talk to the published memos of Clete Meyers and Roger Brown and the rest. I’m not saying I love WCU Dining. I’m a lot happier now that I can just toss some shrimp or chicken onto my own skillet in my own kitchen whenever I want, but the guys that do most of your cooking do need a break, and here’s how it goes:

1. Any campus food service, despite a glut of school funding and all that money it makes from making you buy meal plans, is a losing proposition. You who have been here long enough pine for the days of Mariott, or even the State, without realizing that they lost money here too. At the end of the 99-00 school year, the heads of Aramark’s WCU locations were thrilled to be breaking even for the year. None of the rest of the years of Aramark’s residence, to my knowledge, have been so profitable. Why any company would bother with any school then is beyond my understanding, but Aramark has shouldered the next couple of years here, and not with the purpose of filling its pockets with your money. Your money, the money you have paid, is really mostly lost by yourselves, because–

2. Students at Western don’t take advantage of the variety and plentitude of food that has been made available, first. A lot of money was spent setting up those little Pan-Geos stations all around Dodson, what with their fancy modular cook-stations and halogen spotlights, but I’m willing to bet the cafeteria runs out of french fries and chicken fingers first, every day. You also may not know, but the people manning those cook-stations beat the required prep-times for their products consistently, by a few seconds at least, every time. Give them a chance: they’re not so slow. And in Brown? Contrary to popular belief, that Eggplant parmesean probably won’t be recycled the next day. It will be tossed, basically because there weren’t enough people interested in the interesting vegetarian option it provided. And that’s not the only reason.

3. I don’t know the official figure, but I would guess more than $150 of food is stolen from Aramark locations every day. Multiply $150 by the number of days we’re here every year and that’s a pretty big portion of your meal plan. Dozens of people I know are adding to the costs of your meals every time they walk out of the UC line without paying or whatever, and why? Well–

4. The service is too slow. The kindly older ladies who always remember your name and run the cash registers at 7:30 in the morning because no student would work then, the Cyber or UC employees who cook while ringing up purchases while cleaning trash off tables and floors, whoever, don’t serve you fast enough. You could do yourselves a favor and realize that certain hours (like opening time at the UC on Sunday nights, and so on) are busier than others and adjust your schedules accordingly, but that would undo all the freedom you’ve gained for yourselves by coming to college, right? And when you’re stuck in rush-hour traffic in Asheville or Charlotte, will you blame every other car on the road for impeding your drive? Or every other office for starting work at the same time as yours? Myself, I’d prefer to be served by a non-student, or to work with one, if my only other choice is an unreliable college punk like myself.

5. And then there’s Little Caesar’s (which, by the way, is not prohibited on campus since Aramark is allowed to, and even encouraged to, contract major franchises like Little Caesar’s and Chick-Fil-A for on-campus locations to provide a sense of normalcy for us fast-food-centered students.) I agree with Kyle Raess when he says, basically, that Little Caesar’s is a mess. It’s just not right for a store to be run by 3, maybe 4 people, including delivery drivers, when it does as much business in one night as, say, the Waynesville Little Caesar’s does in a full day’s operation (and much more than GJ’s and Papa’s combined.) But there are some ways you can make your experience a little more pleasant. You can a.) apply in person at Dodson cafeteria any time during the day (best pay on campus! meals on the job!) or b.) not talk on the phone while expecting pizza, since more than half of a delivery driver’s time is spent waiting for customers to answer and come to their lobbies (even GJ’s drivers have to wait–I’ve seen them,) or even c.) be helpful and understanding when ordering or lodging a complaint. I know it’s their obligation to be right, but be patient: you may work at a food service someday too.

I don’t mean to make this sound like this is all your fault, Michael, Kyle, and everyone at Western who’s written the Carolinian these last few months with complaints about Aramark. We’re all in a little bit of an weird situation, and we’ll all be finished with it soon, whenever we finally move off-campus and begin boiling our own Ramen and popping our own microwave popcorn for our meals. In the meantime, there are rules you can learn for getting by with how things are, like drinking water instead of coke, or buying chips or fruit instead of fries, that while impinging on your freedom and convenience a little, will get you through the next few years (and let you out into a world where food is often expensive) a little wiser and healthier. And maybe, like me, you’ll have a couple of snazzy Aramark shirts in your closet.

Thanks for your time,Ricky LeeWCU Senior