Dining drama: what’s happening with dining options on campus

Otter Kitchens’ lineup of new dining options on campus brings a variety of food selections. Still, students will have to wait as the newly advertised Bok Choy and Burger831 remain closed until further notice. Ghost Kitchen reopened last week. 

To facilitate the best dining experience possible, the Otter Kitchens team has allocated their workforce to fully support the dining commons and provide students with high-quality food. Once new associates are employed, the latest selection of dining options can reopen.

Students make their meal plan purchase decisions based on meals and dining dollars. Currently, there are fewer places on campus to spend dining dollars; the Otter Express, a favorite of many, is closed at the moment and under renovation.

The Otter Express will reopen in two phases – phase one in the Spring of 2022 and phase two in the Fall of 2022. The team plans to reenergize the space with different dining venues and market options. A bar concept with beer and wine services is currently in development.

Management and employees are facing challenges with significant complexity every day. The team is taking a dynamic approach, pivoting when needed.

Michael Rodgers, the general manager of Otter Kitchens, has expressed his approach towards the pandemic.

 “You have to be fluid during this time,” Rodgers said. “We’re working within the pandemic, learning how to adapt to it.” 

Rodgers says he is creating a culture where people want to work, an exciting culinary environment. He is prioritizing safety and serving guests without cross-contamination. Staff and students want to see that they are safe. 

The university was closed last year and the team is learning as they go. Providing service at multiple venues is the goal, but creating the best possible experience is the focus. Rodgers is building out the team with new employees and associates.

Danny Romero, a computer science student and Otter Kitchens employee, described his experience. 

“It’s fast-paced, they don’t have enough staff and the hardest part is the uncertainty,” Romero said. Taking the job day by day has been his approach.

Specialty positions are hard to employ right now because of the pandemic. Product supply and labor shortages are affecting the entire world. 

Alexandra Perez, Otter Kitchen’s marketing manager, outlined campus response. 

“There’s a win every day,” Perez said. “Students have been very receptive to our transparent messaging; we’ve been honest about shortages.” Seeing positive feedback from students is a highlight for Perez. 

Rodgers and Perez believe in reopening at the highest level, always giving 100 percent – a half measure approach doesn’t provide the most efficient service.  

While most of the new dining lineup is closed, students, staff and faculty members can look forward to the reopenings with new features, selections and variety. 

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