Students share opinions on dining hours; UNF dining responds

Julia Croston, Managing Editor

University of North Florida students have expressed their opinions on the hours of operation for on-campus dining locations, hoping for more accommodating adjustments, and, in response, Dining Services explained that these current hours are a product of continual recovery from the pandemic and understaffing. 

Responding to an Instagram poll, students shared their opinions on dining hours. The responses were all in agreement that dining locations should be open longer. Two students expressed that the current dining hours are “extremely inconvenient for students” and “not accommodating to the student body.” 

“We shouldn’t be paying thousands for food that we can only get at certain hours of the day,” wrote another student. 

In 2019, a Spinnaker article featured student opinions on the meal block periods, and these opinions seem to have remained unchanged in 2022. With a meal plan, students can only use one swipe per meal period.  UNF requires first-time students who live on campus to have a meal plan, with the lowest option as 10 meal swipes per week. “Meal blocks r stupid I already paid for a meal plan let us decide when to use it,” a student responded. 

Other students believe meal periods are incompatible with a busy schedule. “They suck, I work all day and only get the chance to use the 8pm-3am so half my swipes get wasted,” stated a student. Students who have classes later in the day find the hours unaccommodating as well. One student wrote that they wish more places were open after 5p.m. because their classes do not end until then.

UNF Dining Spring 2022 hours.
Screenshot of the UNF Dining Spring 2022 hours.

Students who live on campus also expressed that they find it difficult to find options on Friday nights in particular when fewer people are on campus. “It’s really, really strange that places close early on Fridays but are open until way later on Saturdays. They would be used a lot more on Fridays anyways (most people don’t live on campus),” shared a student. 

More specifically, some students pointed out issues they find with the cafeteria stating that “breakfast needs to be extended” and that the “kitchen should close later and more late night options.” 

Responding to student opinions, the Director of Marketing & Guest Experience Dennis Negrin, Resident District Manager Joe Lachina and Director of Operations Glenda Shifflett shared that the hours of operation are selected due to a number of factors. 

“The hours are a reflection of the environment that we are in currently,” Negrin said. 

In comparison to the Fall, hours of operation have increased, according to Negrin. COVID shifted Dining Services’ ability to function fully, and they are still making a recovery to find a way to get things back to normal. The main issue comes from the lack of employees. 

Currently, Dining Services is heavily advertising jobs to students and has been offering special incentives, including free on-campus parking, to new employees. According to Lachina, Dining Services lost approximately 80% of its employees at the start of the pandemic. Staffing has increased since then, but there are not enough employees to fully expand the hours of operation. Lachina explained that it would be counterproductive to spread out employees to different venues when they can focus on maintaining the highest quality of service. 

The hours of operation are also selected based on student traffic data in order to not overwork employees and still reach most of the student population. Dining Services wants to make sure students who live on campus can get food based on their location, prioritizing Ozzie’s and Pita Pit at night since they are closest to residence halls. 

Dining locations in the Student Union as well as Pita Pit, in the Osprey Clubhouse, have to close before the buildings do, restricting late-night hours. These locations are also affected by the limited number of employees.

With the Osprey Cafe, in particular, Dining Services focuses more on the lunch menu because more students eat there during that time and more staff members can be there. Over time, Dining Services hopes to incorporate more food options and stations in the cafeteria. 

Dining Services appreciates student opinions and said they want to uphold transparency with their decisions. They are always trying to improve and feel they are in a better position than they were at the start of COVID. 


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