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By Amanda Coscarelli, Aug. 31, 2021

As students step foot on campus for the first time since the 18-month hiatus began, they’re now met with fewer dining options and limited hours of operation that serve as a reminder that things aren’t quite back to normal.

Students, staff and food service employees face challenges as a select few restaurants on campus scramble to serve hungry customers. 

Those who struggle to decide where to eat might be in luck, but limited dining options are causing more stress than ease as longer lines force students to return to class with empty stomachs.

Currently only a few restaurants such as Subway, Qdoba, Hibachi-San and Panda Express are open on campus and their hours are limited to mostly mornings and midday. Many restaurants limit their hours on Fridays as well. There are no restarants currently open on weekends.

Students can find small bites at the Pony Express at the Campus Center Marketplace, which closes at 4 p.m. Additionally, Lollicup Fresh will be serving drinks until 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Other staff around campus such as employee at the Office of Undergraduate Research and alumna, Lauren Bernal, said that the lack of food options on campus was dispiriting.

“For years I used to grab onion rings from Carl’s or mozzarella cheese sticks from The Den. Seeing so many places dark and without life felt a bit depressing,” Bernal said.

Dining Services recognizes students’ concerns and acknowledges that the current circumstances are less than satisfactory. They plan to open more restaurants and expand hours throughout the fall semester as long as the campus remains open, and they are able to hire more staff. 

“We definitely want to expand Starbucks hours, we definitely want to expand the Panda hours,” said David Corral, associate director of Cal Poly Pomona Foundation Dining Services.

Corral explained that one of the main reasons for the limited hours is low staff. 

“We’ve been hiring since July and only a few students applied because they’re not really located in Pomona,” said Corral. “It wasn’t until probably Aug. 16 when they finally applied so this week we’re interviewing and trying to accept as many students as possible and trying to go back to what we call ‘normal’ to regular hours.”

Corral also explained that the hours of operation are based on the staff’s availability. 

According to Corral, most of the new employees at Starbucks are only available in the mornings, though Dining Services hopes to hire enough people to expand their hours and fill later shifts.

Corral mentioned that Dining Services hopes to open a number of new restaurants that will replace those that have shut down.

The Den has already been replaced by Fit Bite, a healthy late-night choice. They also plan to open something at the College of Business Administration.

Many students and staff around campus are unhappy with the current circumstances, even taking to social media.

“Can we please extend these hours? Thanks,” said kristenbutler_ on Instagram. 

Others complained about their favorite dining options permanently closing. “Bruh not Taco Bell are you kidding me,” said Litoman7 on Reddit.

Amanda Ochs, a biochemistry major, explained that her class and work schedule makes it difficult to find food on campus.

“I have back-to-back classes from 12-6 p.m. on certain days so I would not be able to find food at many places,” said Ochs. “I work in the games room in the BSC and on Fridays it would be difficult for me to eat on campus since most places close early on Fridays.”

Restaurants will need to be fully staffed to open and expand hours. Dining Services urges students to apply for job openings through the Foundation career page. 

While the current dining options will have to suffice, Dining Services is confident that circumstances will change in the near future.

“Be patient. We’re going to open up more hours,” said Corral. “We’re going to open up more services. We’re very confident that will happen. We’re together in this.”

Featured image courtesy of Amanda Coscarelli. 

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