On-campus dining retailers reopening despite struggling with staff shortages

Peet’s Coffee and Argo Tea have opened, Chicken & Co. is soon to follow

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Kami Nguyen, Collegian Correspondent

After being closed since the start of the semester, Peet’s Coffee & Tea in the Integrative Learning Center and Argo Tea in Southwest Residential Area have recently reopened. Chicken & Co., also in Southwest, will be opening in a couple of weeks with evening hours two to three days a week. The delays were caused by shortages of both professional full-time and student staff.

UMass Dining decided which dining retailers to open first based on their locations and busiest hours. Retailers that are closer to the center of campus and usually busy all day got priority.

Garett DiStefano, director of residential and retail dining services, said, “We worked with our culinary team, as well as consulting with our student ambassadors, trying to figure out what would best serve the students in the best way possible.

Anh Do, a senior hospitality and tourism management and psychology double major who has worked at Argo Tea for two years, has been temporarily working at the library’s Procrastination Station since the start of the semester. She said that all of the cafes are still struggling with staff shortages, which is frustrating for customers as well. For this reason, Peet’s Coffee & Tea employees declined to respond to questions.

“Supervisors have to work extra hours overtime, and then us students, we have to take a little bit more hours to help out the cafe,” Do said.

The Hampden Building, where Argo Tea and Chicken & Co. are located, also experienced maintenance issues and structural damage that were recently fixed.

“COVID happened so suddenly, people didn’t have time to clean up stuff, so it was really, really dirty in there, like, mold, and the ceiling was leaking, [there was a] gas leak in there too,” Do said.

However, DiStefano claims that these issues were not a factor in the late openings.

“The cafes themselves were not delayed based upon any equipment or infrastructure, it was truly a staffing issue of why we couldn’t open,” he said.

UMass Dining is continuing to hold on the spot hiring events for full-time and part-time staff in the Hampshire and Berkshire Commons. Students can also apply by going into any dining location and completing an interview.

“We have normally about 1,500 or so students that work with us. We didn’t have anywhere near that number and we’re getting closer to that number now, but when we started the school year we had barebone students and staff, so we had to work very hard to recruit, very hard to train, and then also, we had to accommodate the needs of all students,” DiStefano said.

Despite these challenges, students are still happy to have these places up and running again.

Senior comparative literature and communications major Chini Lahoti often frequented Peet’s, as the ILC is home to many of her communication and linguistics classes. She expressed excitement about the reopening, saying, “The little cafes around campus make it feel like you’re on campus and that things are normal.”

Do is also looking forward to returning to Argo Tea to work. “I really do enjoy making teas and the vibe there is very chill, you have so much freedom down there. And the food there is fresh too,” she said.

Kami Nguyen can be reached at [email protected]