Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo of The Middlebury Campus
Monday, Jun 24, 2024

Staffing crisis in food services causes early closing of the Grille, Crossroads and MiddXpress

Grille hours have shortened due to understaffing.
Grille hours have shortened due to understaffing.

Staff shortages at the Grille, Crossroads Cafe and MiddXpress have resulted in limited hours. Former employees cited frustration with student behavior, the local housing market and retirement as reasons for leaving.

This week, MiddXpress has returned to normal operating hours, while the Grille is now open only between 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is not open on weekends. Crossroads hours have been irregular due to shifting Grille hours, but they have returned to normal this week.

According to Dan Detora, executive director of food service operations, there are currently 16 vacant full-time positions in dining throughout campus, including 10 vacant cook positions. The night shift at the Grille is one of the most affected areas with the usual eight staff members reduced to three.

“Night Grille is always a challenge because of the late-night aspect of it, and cooks in general throughout campus,” Detora said. “We're really struggling in those areas.”

The town of Middlebury’s lack of affordable housing and the inconvenience of commuting for staff living in surrounding areas are both reasons for the staffing shortage.

“If you look at the Boston schools or the inner city schools, they have three things that we don't have. They have a lot of people. They have low income housing, and they have public transportation. We don't have any of those, so it's a challenge,” Detora said.

Besides these financial difficulties, retirement en masse has also contributed to the severe staff shortage in dining facilities, adding uncertainty to how long the shortage will continue to affect the dining services options in McCullough Student Center.

“The great thing about our current staff is we have a lot of long term employees and a core group of amazing dining service employees. The bad thing is they've been here a long time, and they're starting to retire,” Detora said. “Over the last two years, I think we've had five or six individuals retire. After graduation, we have two more retiring.”

Detora also spoke about how unacceptable student behaviors, especially on the weekends, have put extra pressure on the staff. Out of the three staff members that left the Grille, two of them said students' behavior was the main reason for their departure.

While the adjustments in operating hours have brought many inconveniences, students have been particularly affected by the Grille’s early closing because food options at night are now largely reduced.

“It’s hard to find a place for food at night after dinner,” Sheila Lam ’26 said. “I need a place where I can get hot meals aside from regular dining hours.”

The shortage has also led Dining Services to cut stations in Ross and Atwater dining halls. It’s difficult to ask staff working the day shift to work overtime, because many of them have a second job.

At the moment, Dining Services plans to keep MiddXpress open until midnight to offer students pizza and other hot food. Dining halls are also ordering pre-cut vegetables to help staff members save time in food preparation.

Despite these reductions, Dining Services plans to continue the prolonged lunch hours at Atwater in the fall as a way to cope with the staff shortage. According to Detora, however, the availability of dining halls will depend on future developments to this issue.

“In the worst case scenario, it could come to a point where one of the dining halls has to reduce its offerings to just sandwiches, and the other two extend their hours of operation,” he said.

Detora remained hopeful about Dining Services’ plans for the future but acknowledged the difficulty of returning to normal services with this ongoing shortage.

“We're trying to come up with some plans, for sure, but some of that certainly will affect students and how we feed them. We're trying to do the best we can and try not to take away services, but when we only have three people at the Grille, it's impossible to open that facility at night, just impossible,” Detora said. “We need to develop, and we're looking into that with our human resource department, some long term plans to answer the staffing crisis.”

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Middlebury Campus delivered to your inbox

Editor’s Note: Sheila Lam ’26 is an Online Editor for The Campus.