University of Arizona Student Unions combating staffing shortage amid record enrollment

“When I go to a restaurant now, it’s patience, kindness, generosity,” said Todd Millay, executive director of Arizona Student Unions.
UA dining hall deals with lack of employees
Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 7:25 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Restaurants across the country are dealing with little and in some cases no staff, and it’s also the case at the University of Arizona Student Unions.

Todd Millay, executive director of Arizona Student Unions said out of the 33 restaurants on campus, six can’t even open because of short staffing.

“I would call it quite a labor crisis in the restaurant and hospitality industry,” Millay said. “We typically have about 300 full-time employees and somewhere around 1,200 to 1,300 student employees that work for us when school is in session. We only have about 220 full-time and about 700 to 800 student workers right now.”

There are currently 40 full-time job positions open, and Millay said they will post another 30 full-time positions shortly to try and fill that staffing need. He said people aren’t applying for the open positions and those who do typically don’t show up for interviews.

“We lost about 40% of our staff during this experience. We were lucky to be able to retain 60%, but with no students showing up last year compared to normal, it’s been pretty devastating,” Millay said. “We had layoffs, we had furloughs, people shifted jobs and shifted industries, people rethought what they thought about work altogether.”

The staffing shortage is causing a lot of delays on campus, especially with the record-breaking student enrollment this year at the U of A.

“When I go to a restaurant now it’s patience, kindness, generosity,” Millay said. “Because these people are showing up and working hard.”

Millay said they expect to get more student workers thanks to the large enrollment, but in the meantime, they have put new measures in place to combat long wait times.

“We’re exploring robot delivery on campus, so we can take the food to the students. We have couriers on campus. Grubhub and stuff like that that will literally take food so they don’t have to wait in line. We’ve implemented speed menus, so if the burrito takes six steps and that’s too long it’s not on the menu any longer. We have a burrito that takes three steps.”

On average, Millay said the Arizona Student Unions processing more than 20,000 orders a day between all of their restaurants.

Pay at their restaurants is varied due to the position. Typically, workers are making anywhere between minimum wage and $17 an hour. More career-oriented positions, such as event planners are making close to $50,000.

“Right now we are looking for willingness to work. Willingness to show up, interest,” Millay said. “If you head to, you can see all of the job openings across campus.”

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