The challenges of keeping staff employed during summer

Welcome break, or a turnover agent?

Bianca N. Herron, Digital Editor

summer hours

While students may cheer when school’s out for summer, the folks who are feeding them may not feel the same way. Foodservice directors use that summer “break” to plan menus, secure funding and do major and minor work on their facilities—but there isn’t always work for their staff during those months.

While Brent Craig, director of Douglas County School District in Castle Rock, Colo., tries to provide summer work such as cleaning, painting and renovation projects, he’s only about to keep on about eight people out of his 365 staffers—nearly 70 percent of whom are seasonal—due to a lack of need.

“There are two areas in our district that qualify for summer feeding, and we staff six employees for them,” Craig says. “We have an in-house interview process, and typically 14 people apply.”

Because Terry Baker, director of dining services at Oklahoma State University, provides on-campus dining for programs including sports camps and a 4-H conference, she’s able to extend opportunities to her staff throughout the summer. “We [normally] have nearly 160 full-time employees, and the majority of them want to work in the summer,” she says. “We also sometimes work with our physical plant staff to see if there’s employment.”

David Geleta, associate director of dining and conference services at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., provides services for on-campus programs during the summer, serving less than 100 students for three weeks in June and upward of 500 in July. “The constant change in counts requires us to adjust [staff] schedules appropriately, and often at the last minute, if numbers have changed significantly,” he says, adding that 84 percent of his staff is seasonal, so he often finds himself in need of summer workers.

Geleta maintains a summer call-in sheet to fill last-minute scheduling holes, using temporary workers as a last resort. If he can’t find someone to work in time, staffers pull together to get the job done. Finding summer staff has become a larger issue in recent years, says Geleta, and he thinks generational differences have something to do with it. “In high school and college [Generation X] would work as many hours as possible,” he says. “Now it seems like many of a younger generation place higher value on their personal time and make that a priority—even over work.”

While operators agreed that the majority of their staff enjoy summers off—especially those with families—the seasonality of the pay cycle can be a detriment. “For example, being a single parent, and we’re not able to pay them more, so that can make things tough,” Craig says. “This probably accounts for [our] higher turnover each year [26 percent], because some people get summer jobs and stay at those.” 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The School District of Philadelphia and Baltimore City Public Schools are the latest districts in the Urban School Food Alliance to switch to compostable plates.

The move to the eco-friendlier products will save 19 million polystyrene products from landfills, according to a news release .

Schools often use polystyrene products due to their low cost. Polystyrene trays cost on average around 4 cents apiece, while compostable plates cost an average of 12 cents each. The Urban School Food Alliance’s collective buying power enabled them to create a compostable plate that costs...

Managing Your Business

Guy Procopio got a taste of the future when Michigan State University hosted a Boy Scout event in 2015. Out of 10,000 participants at the East Lansing, Mich., campus, Procopio, the director of dining services, received 1,400 requests to meet special dietary needs, including a wide spectrum of allergies, gluten intolerance or insensitivity, and other new or unusual hyper-specialized diets.

This dining trend isn’t letting up, at least in America: Food allergies in children increased approximately 50% from 1997 to 2011. They now affect one in 13 children in the United States,...

Industry News & Opinion

Students of Broward County Public Schools in Florida were treated to a special meal by celebrity chef Aria Kagan during lunch last week.

The chef and former contestant on “The Next Food Network Star” prepared her farm-fresh pesto panini in front of students at McNicol Middle School in Hollywood, Fla.

Her visit was part of the district’s Chefs Move to Broward initiative, through which a chef from nonprofit Wellness in the Schools visits district cafeterias each month to prepare a healthy meal. The chef then teaches cafeteria staff how to make the dish so it can be...

Managing Your Business
woman alone in kitchen

In a post-Harvey Weinstein world, there’s an awful anticipation over which star’s worst-kept secret will be outed next. The outpouring of claims of sexual harassment and abuse helped popularize the #MeToo social media campaign, encouraging women to share their stories and spurring allegations against upwards of 60 high-profile men. In October, the movement’s momentum hit the foodservice industry. Since, behemoths such as Mario Batali, John Besh and Todd English were forced to confront accusations of alleged sexual harassment or misconduct.

For many women, the scope of the industry’...

FSD Resources