Kramer deals with seasonal student employee shortage

Kramer workers prepare food in the Kramer Dining Center on Feb. 1, 2017. (File photo by John Benfer | Collegian Media Group)

Slightly longer wait times and unavailability of some services at Kramer Dining Center are not the result of budget cuts, but rather the effects of the typical shortages in student staff members the dining centers undergo each year, according to Missy Schrader, unit director at Kramer Dining Center.

“From a staffing standpoint, it is typical for us, at … Derby, Kramer and Van Zile to start out with fewer students than we actually need to operate,” Schrader said. “That’s because we rely heavily on students that live in the residence halls to be student employees.”

Starting off with a low number of employees is typical at the beginning of each school year, Schrader said. However, some employees do stay on staff between years.

“We do carry over some employees from the freshman to sophomore year,” Schrader said. “Typically, those students — if they have the leadership skills and they like working at Kramer — they’ll be promoted into supervisory positions or student leadership positions.”

A potential cause of student staff shortage at this time of year is students’ desire to “settle in” at college before tackling an on-campus job.

“Because we rely so heavily on the residence hall population to be student employees, not all of them are ready to sign up for a job before they get to campus,” Schrader said. “Some students want to come to … K-State and ‘get their feet wet’ before committing to a job, and then they’ll sign up.”

As the dining center hires more students to reach the 280 employees needed to operate over the next few weeks, Schrader said students might see longer wait times at lines.

“Some of the effects that customers might recognize [are] slight delays in service,” Schrader said. “For example, if instead of having three servers we have two, it’s going to take a couple seconds longer per customer to get them through the line.”

Apart from the limited number of student servers, delays might occur in other areas of food production.

“It could be with refilling of products,” Schrader said. “Some of our students, like in our food prep areas where they help the cooks prep food and make food — when you don’t have those students, it requires the cook to handle more products than they usually would and work harder and faster than they might normally work. … We have students doing a couple of jobs at once.”

Students largely said the delays at the dining center have not been substantial.

“I’ve had to do the regular long wait in the southwestern line or in the pizza line or in the grill line, but it hasn’t been too bad of a wait,” SJ Murff, freshman in criminology, said. “I haven’t been starving to death because of the wait, so it hasn’t been too bad.”

Murff said the dining center could attract more employees by offering a higher starting wage. Currently, employees who start at the dining center make $8 an hour and are eligible for semesterly raises.

Carter Brasel, sophomore in mechanical engineering, said lines have occasionally been long at the dining center, although they were long last semester, too.

“It’s just busier everywhere, especially on weekends, but there are times where there are like 14 people in line,” Brasel said. “I know of times when the taco bar and the classics lines are busy, so it’s always busy. And it was pretty busy last year, too, so it doesn’t seem anything too out of the ordinary.”

Schrader has also noticed a shortage of employees in local restaurants and shops.

“I realize that it’s a challenge all over Manhattan this year to find staff,” Schrader said. “Looking at some of the restaurants … I think it’s interesting that everyone is hiring. Everyone seems to be experiencing a need for staffing that I haven’t noticed in the past.”

A second factor that contributes to staff shortage is student hesitation to seek employment in college due to the current substantial cost to attend a university.

“Students are making such a large financial investment now in college, they want to hold off and make sure they understand the expectations of their classes before they really decide what else they can handle, whether it be a job or an activity or whatever,” Schrader said. “That’s part of my theory.”

I'm Rafael Garcia, and I'm a 2019 K-State graduate in journalism and former editor-in-chief of the K-State Collegian. I believe that much of the world's problems come from a lack of understanding of other people, but by telling other people's stories and finding the good in the world, I think we can increase our understanding and appreciation of each other. Questions, comments, concerns, news tips? Email the Collegian team at