Ola Alhaj Hasan
Most students walk into the Ada Dodge cafeteria at least a few times a week. Some go there to buy a snack or a meal, while others go to study, or chat with friends. Rarely, however, do students think about or consider the relentless hard work and efforts of the cafeteria staff.
In an effort to understand the labour that makes the Ada Dodge and OSB cafeteria experiences possible, Outlook pursued some information from their Food Service Supervisor.
The cafeteria’s staff consists of thirty-five people, divided between Ada Doge and OSB. All staff members work for eight hours and get a one-hour break.
A regular day entails the cafeteria opening at 7:00 am, where a total of nine hours for workers means that it should close at 4:00 pm. What ends up happening, however, is that the cafeteria remains open for two or three extra hours. This requires around four staff members to work extra hours and get paid accordingly.
Operating hours are extended due to the lack of student-friendly indoor spaces at AUB.
“Aside from Jafet Library, which quickly reaches its full capacity, it is hard for students [in upper campus] to find a place to shelter from the rain in winter, or the heat and humidity in summer,” said the Food Service Supervisor.
Hence, the decision to open the cafeteria for a few more hours is motivated by the will to accommodate students and to create an atmosphere where they feel welcomed. It is not done for purposes of profit, as very little is purchased during those extra hours.
In general, the number of daily customers ranges from 400 to 500 students, staff, and faculty, as well as AUB visitors.
At the beginning of every semester, the cafeteria staff take an indication of the scope of demand, according to which the food quantities are adjusted. One factor usually kept in mind is that most students have full schedules on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and so greater quantities of food are prepared on those days.
The cafeteria’s daily lunch meals come from the central kitchen of the AUB Medical Center (AUBMC). The food arrives in two trucks: one for cold substances and another for hot ones. These trucks enter campus in coordination with the safety department and the security team.
Then, food is unloaded and kept in thermally isolated containers. A quality control specialist measures the temperature of food three times per day: once at 11:00 am, as it arrives, then at 1:00 pm, an hour after lunch starts being served, then once more at 3:00 pm, which is towards the end of lunch time.
A number of food items do not come from AUBMC – including the breakfast croissants – which are provided from food contractors, chosen on the basis of quality and health standards.
Among the things that do not come straight from the central kitchen are the refrigerated sandwiches; these are prepared inside the cafeteria according to consumption. For example, a batch of 30 or 40 sandwiches is prepared, and once they are all sold out, another batch is prepared, to guarantee a high level of freshness.
Other than that, the quantity of food ordered from the central kitchen is calculated well enough to ensure that nothing goes to waste. After 3:00 pm, there would be around seven to ten servings of the daily dish left, which staff members are free to take home.
In certain cases, the departments of nutrition or agriculture arrange to take leftovers from the cafeteria for their own research purposes.
It is clear that the process in which food is prepared for our daily consumption requires much more than what meets the eye. Labourers involved – including chefs – cashier personnel, janitors, supervisors, and others, contribute greatly to the overall AUB experience.