Student Voice


April 21, 2024




Student Voice offers suggestions for Dining Services

April 17, 2019

Award-winning journalism

This staff-written opinion won second place in editorial writing in the 2019 Collegiate Better Newspaper Contest sponsored by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation. Read more

From a strange smell by the conveyor belt, crusty spoons, to crumb-covered tables just minutes after the doors opened, Dining Services is no stranger to student complaints. They have made several attempts in the past to resolve these issues, however the problems are reoccurring.

It is clear Dining Services has made efforts in the past to improve conditions. However, many students believe more could be done to better fulfill the dining services mission. The mission emphasizes quality, variety and cleanliness, but it’s debated whether or not these goals are actually met.

The main issues we see at the University Center dining hall involve a lack of staff training, poor distribution of labor, and potentially unmet hygienic standards. As students exit Riverside Commons, a popular dining location, they are met with a foul smell by the conveyor belts.

An insider revealed the cause of the smell. A former employee, Sam Elam, explained this pungent odor. It’s a result of “people dumping out their glasses onto the grates, instead of leaving them on the belt. They’re not supposed to do that.”

Workers are supposed to clean the grates, Elam admits, but often dish washing staff are not aware of the smell until they’ve received a complaint from management.

As for issues with labor distribution and training, dining services should attempt to closely follow their own policies. Employees have reportedly received little to no training from qualified staff, for positions such as dish-washing and table-wiping. Although these duties seem straightforward there are aspects that are more complex than what meets the eye, such as testing the pH of the table cleaning solution, and the frequency of changing out dishwater water. Additionally, Elam recalled being expected to close within her first few days working without proper instruction. “They said ‘oh, you’re closing this night, hope you know what you need to do,’ and I didn’t know anything,” Elam confessed.

Kiera Kapfhamer explained the little training she received. “My manager gave me a tour of the kitchen area and where to find the cleaning supplies. Then, she asked another employee to show me where to find the buckets for water and the cleaner we used,” Kapfhamer said.

In the opinion of the Student Voice staff, Dining Services employees should receive proper training for the jobs they are expected to do, as well as be given the knowledge necessary to be a successful participant in the strategic mission.

Dining Services employees interviewed had a variety of experiences, from uncomfortable interactions with other staff, difficulty completing tasks, feeling either overworked or bored, to broken machines and a lack of communication. Elam stated, “It was grinding, everyday, to get things done.”

Elam had a message for students that frequent the Riverside Commons, “Yes, there’s a nasty smell. I know sometimes it’s frustrating not finding a plate or a spoon that’s clean. Just understand that there’s a lot more going on than what you can see and be patient.”

Student complaints aside, Dining Services at UW-River Falls are trying to ensure the facilities are “nice and welcoming.” For that mission to succeed, students and faculty both need to speak up when they feel a disservice has been made, in order for these problems to be resolved. Improvements are always possible and feedback is facilitates the change.