After the expansion of the meal swipe exchange program this semester, restaurants in Hoya Court and the North Gallery of the Leavey Center are experiencing unpredictable long lines and longer wait times from the the heavy inflow of students trying to use meal swipes.
The new meal exchange plan, announced in an email from Joelle Wiese, associate vice president of auxiliary services, to students on Aug. 26, gives students the ability to use dining plan meal swipes for food at Elevation Burger, Subway, Salad Creations, and Cosi. Although met with initial excitement, the expansion has led to an influx of student customers that has forced most of these restaurants to make accommodations such as hiring new staff and increasing production.
Brandon Spear (COL ’19) has experienced the meal exchange complications firsthand, citing long lines and long waits.
“At Elevation Burger, you order right away, but you have to wait 30 to 40 minutes to get your food,” Spear said. “One time at Cosi, the woman said ‘we have an hour and twenty minute wait and we only have soups and salads.’ So, I left and went to Epi.”
Over the past semester, business at Subway has changed dramatically, according to an employee who wished to remain anonymous due to contract concerns.
“[There are] just way more customers,” said the worker. “At Subway, we always have a rush; the line is always long.”
To keep up with the long lines after 3pm— the time when the meal swipe change goes into effect— Subway has had to hire extra staff, keeping seven staff members behind the counter and two taking meal swipes, to deal with the large crowds, according to the Subway employee.
Elevation Burger has had to make similar adjustments, an employee who identified himself as the “fry master” indicated.
“We just increased our productivity, our preparations have increased, our food costs have increased,” the employee said. “Everything has increased because there are more people coming in now with their meal swipes…It was kind of new to us in the beginning, but we’ve pretty much got it down now.”
Even though there’s no way to predict how many students will come on a given day, he considered the staff at Elevation Burger to be ready for whatever.
Cosi, on the other hand, has fallen short.
Isaac Karlan-Mason (SFS ‘19) was one of the students left hanging by an overburdened Cosi.
“I ended up waiting for over an hour and leaving before my food was ready,” said Karlan-Mason. “People who came after me were given their food before me…It wasn’t the workers’ fault. There was clearly no management structure and system to manage the orders.”
A Cosi employee explained that nothing had changed in the management of the establishment besides the introduction of the meal exchange policy. “[It’s had] a very big effect. We’re 100 percent more busier …Some people wait excess of an hour [for their food]; I don’t think [Cosi] thought we would get hit this hard,” the employee said.
One reason for the back-up, the employee continued, is that the kitchen needs new technology, such as improved monitors and printers, to speed up meal preparation. The employee says those adjustments would have made the transition easier. Frequent mis-scheduling hinders progress and although Cosi hires new employees sometimes there is still not enough staff.