Students and staff might have to wait until fall semester for the return of some closed dining options.
The beginning of 2020 brought on changes that no one could have foreseen. As restrictions have changed over the last year, many companies are still struggling to operate as they once did. The campus has been affected as well.
Starbucks at the MUC and other restaurants opened back up in limited capacity to serve SIUE, but others, such as Kaldi’s Coffee, Auntie Anne’s and Cocina did not. Sweet Eats Bakery, The Wok, Fixins’ Restaurant, Bluff Hall Café and Skywalk Diner will also remain closed until further notice.
Director of Dining Services Dennis Wobbe said keeping some closed was a necessary decision but not an easy one. He said it didn’t make sense to support multiple restaurants few people are utilizing.
“Basically, it all boils down to having easily 60 to 70 percent of our sales and traffic being reduced. And we are revenue-based. So, without revenue, we really struggled to keep everything open,” Wobbe said.
Wobbe said, like most restaurants, they are struggling to keep up and do not anticipate opening up by this summer, and the possibility of reopening in the fall would depend on sales.
Erin Myers, office support associate at the Student Opportunities for Academic Results office, said she isn’t bothered by the limited options, but she is glad there are options available if she needs them.
“I do eat there sometimes, but not really often. I would say, yes, obviously, the options are limited, because they closed certain things. It doesn’t necessarily upset me because I understand why,” Myers said. “I usually just like to pick up a pizza from Paavo’s [Pizza] and go because I am in a hurry.”
Mass communications senior Tyana Brock from Decatur, Illinois, said the MUC is a place for her and friends to socialize and isn’t about what is closed, but the vibe isn’t the same right now.
“I just miss being around people. I miss being in college, college. [Do] you know what I mean? Like, I miss seeing other peers even if I don’t know them. It’s just nice to be around people,” Brock said.
Wobbe said Dining Services consolidated operations, reallocated their staff and that everyone is working.
“We changed our hours and had to move people around to different positions. Even though we have had to limit our operation and have had extremely low numbers, we’re short-staffed. It’s a strain on everybody,” Wobbe said. “I truly appreciate all of our staff’s unwavering commitment to the SIUE community because they really have been through it all, and with all the uncertainty, they’ve just been outstanding.”
Wobbe said safety concerns and uncertainty as to the level of anticipated foot traffic were among the reasons Dining Services chose to keep specific places closed. There was the risk of congestion in some of the busier areas, with no way to properly social distance in the lines.
“Auntie Anne’s was close to Starbucks in [the MUC] … and we didn’t want a bottleneck and then have people not be able to practice social distancing. Auntie Anne’s was more of an indulgence and not as essential. It didn’t provide a meal. And then also, it is a little more labor-intensive, so there are a lot more people on people in there,” Wobbe said.
Myers said she feels safe using the dining services on campus because dining employees and customers follow the social guidelines.
“It seems like people have been really good about keeping their distance. And I haven’t seen anyone without a mask. I feel like people are taking the precautions that they have been asked to take,” Myers said. “And so long as ... our positivity rates remain low; then I don’t have any concern about it.”
Wobbe said Dining Services are slowly filling the student positions and monitoring the civil service positions to fill as soon as they are able. Increased need for dining services as students return to on-ground classes will make this more possible.
For a list of available dining services and their hours of operation, visit the Dining Services website.