Overcrowding in cafeteria due to staff shortage

Wait times are frustrating both students and staff


By Seth Forward

Langara’s cafeteria is facing chronic understaffing problems, creating frustration among students and strain on employees.

After a period of COVID-19 safety restrictions, Langara’s cafeteria was fully opened again in September 2021. However, staff shortages across the service industry have hampered hiring, and Langara’s cafeteria is no exception. Long queues have quickly formed.

The Tim Hortons in the cafeteria is another point of frustration. Lines spill through the cafeteria doors, and student like Audrisse Fauni, has claimed to wait for up to an hour.

“I can’t wait that long,” said design formation student Semegne Atkinson, while theatre student Francis Santillan said the Tim Hortons lines are “ridiculous.”

Staff experiencing the same level of frustration as students

Many students congregate in the cafeteria directly before and after their classes. Harpreet Kaur, general arts student and a Tim Hortons employee at Langara, is stuck on both sides of the fence.

“It’s difficult for us to handle,” said Kaur.

Some students complained about what they said were dysfunctional self-serve kiosks at Tim Hortons, making lines even longer. To Kaur, having additional staff seems impossible in the Tim Hortons, as the current staff is already crowding the limited work space.

Chartwells Langara facing recruitment difficulties

Chartwells Langara general manager Len Svensson has noticed a decrease in staff availability, with potential employees only offering to work at specific and limited times, something Svensson hasn’t seen before in his 43 years in the service industry.

“They just don’t want to work,” said Sashi Lehman, an employee at Langara’s cafeteria for 35 years. For Lehman, her patience and extensive experience are getting her through the extra responsibility staff shortages have forced her to undertake.

According to Svensson, the starting pay is $16.74 per hour, though three months and countinuing employment will receive a bonus.

Chartwells is also contracted to run the cafeteria at Douglas College, but staff shortages there aren’t as big of an issue. Dale Clarke, Douglas College’s cafeteria assistant manager, says they are “95 per cent staffed.”

Compare to Langara’s cafeteria, the wait times in line at Douglas College are much shorter. Douglas student Callum Beaton says the longest he has waited in line is “approximately two minutes.”

Emily Carr’s University of Art and Design’s cafeteria is a smaller operation compared to Langara. The cafeteria staff is made up entirely of students and is independently run. However, head chef José Noriega said employing students comes with scheduling problems.

“I have a hard time to match the schedules with the hours we need,”  Noriega said.

Film and screen arts student Kimee Swartz, who also works in a restaurant kitchen, said the cafeteria’s staff is efficient, and that, “They go fast.” Emily Carr’s cafeteria deals with a smaller demand and less traffic than Langara.

VIDEO: José Noriega talks more about the cafeteria staff shortage.




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