More summer dining to be closed at RWU

Allison Kirk, Herald Contributor

Before getting into challenging details, general manager, James Gubata proudly stated that Bon Appetit recently became a company with one billion dollars per year in revenue. He also mentioned that he loved his job and was grateful to provide sustainable food for students on campus. Although this was refreshing to hear, there was still some major problems to be addressed.


The only dining hall open this summer will be Upper Commons. Most retails close regardless, but this is the first year that Lower Commons will be added to that list. To start, this is a rather complicated issue, Gubata explains, Bon Appetit isn’t making the decision to close, rather RWU is, basing it off sound financial analysis and an effort to reduce unneeded expenses.


Since there are less customers in the summer, especially in July, money was being lost. In fact, if they kept retails open, it would have to demand more money from student meal plans.


It’s clear economics are at fault, but let’s not forget the other conversation.


“I’m a little worried,” one Bon Appetit employee admitted sheepishly. “We could have work, but it’s not guaranteed.”


Hawk’s Nest will be closing on June 22. Lower Commons will close on June 23 and Law School Bistro will close on May 18. Bon Appetit told their employees about the closings in mid-March.


“I wish they would have given us more notice or maybe try to keep us open in some kind of way,” an employee of eleven years mentioned.


While a number of employees will face unemployment for the summer, they still have to pay into the union with dues and insurance.


“I’m on a family plan for insurance, so it’s more expensive than the individual plan,” the employee continued. “We’re going to owe a chunk of money when we come back.”


Since the employees cannot collect from the union or university, the employees may have to use something else.


“Since we can’t collect, we could take our paid vacation time, but that’s forcing us to use our vacation when they want us to. Plus, you have to earn vacation time.”


In the past summers, the only retail open was Lower Commons, where only six people covered those shifts while five worked in housekeeping. Along with one retail open, Upper Commons was open during the summertime, as well.


In Gubata’s mind, he needs to try and cover those six this year.


“It’s going to be a situation where we’re going to utilize six or seven extra people in places like housekeeping,” Gubata said. “We’re in union negotiations right now. We want to try to get these retail workers to work in residential, the current contract doesn’t allow that.”


There is no way to tell how many people will be unemployed or have reduced hours, the branch is trying their best to work with what they have available. Gubata emphasized it wasn’t in any way because of the employees.


Even with the loss of Lower Commons in the summer and possible employees, the company is trying to reinvent themselves everywhere. Gutaba told reporters they’re already thinking about new programs. Since there is a lot of wear and tear on equipment, there is a lot of behind the scenes investments. For instance, the branch invested $55,000 in two new ovens.


“The team is thinking about other changes,” Gutaba continued. “We’re looking to change the salad bar next year, as well as, new tables and chairs during the summertime.”


As far as opinion goes, it’s hard to say where I stand. I want these loyal employees to be given work, but I don’t want tuition to rise for already struggling students. Hopefully, something good and balanced can come out of these union negotiations. We just have to wait and find out. But if we’re talking about opinion, I think management could be better mentors.


I understand these people are dealing with the cards handed to them, but there are better ways to deal with them. For instance, the interview with James lasted thirty minutes, and often times I had to refocus him back onto the main point of a question. I understand if certain information cannot be given, but there is no need to skip around a question, just simply say you can’t answer it.


With opinions, challenges and successes present, everyone — especially the employees — are worried wondering what will happen next.