Things heat up at the Grille

Wait times are much longer than they used to be at the Marlin Grille, the school’s other dining option besides the cafeteria, according to the campus community.

“The Grille is significantly slower than in past years,” senior Taylor Boyd said.

The Marlin Grille consists of three stations: Sandella’s Flatbread Cafe, which sells paninis, wraps and small pizzas; the Grille proper, where one can buy foods like chicken tenders and burgers; and the Freshens Smoothie center, which shares a cash register with a convenience-store-style area selling coffee, salads, sandwiches, yogurt and other snacks.

One student reported that Sandella’s closed earlier than it was supposed to on at least one evening during the week of Sept. 11.

“It was 8:15 and I was really hungry because I had missed dinner that day,” senior Gabrielle Freese said. She went up to Sandella’s to order a wrap. “This girl came over…and said, ‘We’re closed.’” Freese said that when she responded that they were supposed to be open until 8:30, she was told, “We don’t have enough staff to keep this open,” and “I have to do my homework just like you do.”

Senior Kathryn Reavis has worked at the Marlin Grille for three years. She said that in recent weeks Sandella’s has occasionally been closed when none of the workers on duty have been trained at that station.

 “Sometimes people don’t have the flexibility that we might be looking for in order to fully have a shift covered.”

Gloria Louis, Sodexo Employee

Sandella’s is the most challenging of the stations to work at. Reavis said that most of the workers are trained at the grill station, which is “so much easier” than Sandella’s. Gloria Louis, a non-student worker, agreed.

“That station is a challenge because you have to be able to multitask right away,” she said. “It’s kind of tough. You can burn stuff very easy over there.” She said that she will only put workers over there if they have proven they are able to handle it.

“Sometimes people don’t have the flexibility that we might be looking for in order to fully have a shift covered,” she said. “They’re students first, and that comes first. We take education very seriously.”

In addition, Reavis said, the severe flooding that the region experienced the week of Sept. 19 caused some workers to be unable to come to work then.

However, other workers say that if there were more non-student workers, the difficulty of scheduling work shifts around student workers’ class times would not present such a problem.

“We are very, very, very, very understaffed,” said Louis.

She has worked at the Marlin Grille for 10 years, and is affectionately known to VWC students as “Mama Gloria.” According to Louis, it takes “five bodies at a time…five people to run the Grille. This is no joke.” As the only non-student worker on duty in the Grille for the evening shift, she has to supervise all the stations. New student workers in particular need help. For instance, Louis said, the day before, a customer brought back the chicken tenders a new worker had made, because “they were raw.”

“We came back the 29th of August. It’s been rough since then….It’s just a big effect on me. It’s really a big effect on me.”

She said she really does not like to have students wait long for their food. “It’s not fair….They’ve got to go to class, or they’ve got a break from class,” she said. They may not be able to stay long enough for the food to be finished. In fact, she cited three instances in the last few weeks when people had to leave before their food was ready.

“I felt so bad,” Louis said. She told the customers that they could come back another time to redeem their orders.    

Tim Lockett, general manager of dining services, said in an interview that “we are going to hire a fourth” non-student worker to supplement the “core” of three that currently work in the Marlin Grille, of which Mama Gloria is one.

He also said the 10 work-study positions in the Marlin Grille are filled.

“We are not understaffed by any means,” he said.

However, Reavis specified that they still “are looking for Sodexo workers at the Grille with Monday and Wednesday flexible daytime availability.”

“The way I see it, there could be two reasons” that the Grille is slower, Boyd said. “Some of the staff are less experienced than previous workers…or they really are understaffed.”

She said some student workers who have now graduated used to know the work “like the back of their hands, but they’re gone now.”

Part of the problem may be the fact that there is no longer a person whose sole job is to manage the Grille. When contacted by telephone, Jonathan Buckingham, the former Marlin Grille manager, said he resigned on June 18. According to a confidential source, Buckingham used to contact the Grille workers from the previous academic year in August and get a schedule ready for the first few weeks of the fall semester. Rebecca Manalac, who is currently managing the Grille, also has duties in the cafeteria, according to a Grille worker.

“We need to hire a person who specifically does the Grille,” sophomore Jonathan Joyner, who has worked there since the beginning of the fall 2015 semester, said. “The caf and the Grille are two totally separate animals.”

Sarah Antozzi, News Editor

(Photo: Ashlei Gates | Marlin Chronicle)