Self-serve kiosks to replace food staff at SUNY Orange

Self-serve kiosks to replace food staff at SUNY Orange

By James Nani Times Herald-Record Posted Apr 13, 2017 at 1:47 PM Updated Apr 13, 2017 at 7:17 PM

MIDDLETOWN - SUNY Orange’s cafeteria workers will be laid off at the end of the spring semester, to be replaced by food-dispensing machines.

In an email sent to students on Thursday, Vinnie Cazzetta, executive director of the nonprofit Orange County Community College Association, which runs the cafeterias, said the change comes after the college’s food-service operations showed a deficit of more than $150,000 last year, “continuing a trend of significant operations losses that has existed for years.”

Cazzetta said nine full-time workers and three part-timers will be laid off as part of the plan.

An outside audit done in December showed larger financial problems were looming, Cazzetta said.

“By doing nothing we could have been out of business in 12 to 18 months. We would not have been able to make payroll,” Cazzetta said.

The College Association is a nonprofit that provides auxiliary services to SUNY Orange. It has existed since the late 1950s and runs the campus book store, food services and buys and manages real estate for future campus development. The changes will go into effect in June.

The college currently has four food centers. The Middletown campus has a cafeteria in the Shepard Student Center, a smaller and newer cafe in the Rowley Center and a cafe at its bio-tech building. There’s also a cafe in Kaplan Hall in Newburgh. Staff at all four will be laid off.

Some students, who began hearing rumors about the changes this week, were not pleased. Many talked about the personal touch from staff who recognize their faces everyday. Others just want fresh food.

Rebecca Walker, a 19-year-old student from Otisville, said while food on campus was pricier than she liked, she enjoyed freshly made, warm food. She said she had no way of eating off campus once she arrived.

“It’s accommodating, it’s convenient and the people who work there are lovely,” Walker said. “It’s kind of awful to lose your job to a machine.”

In recent months, the College Association’s board sought proposals from providers that could handle oversight of food services with the intent of keeping the traditional cafeteria setup that’s been around for decades, Cazzetta said.

“But even with a change of management and anticipated increases of nearly 30 percent in sales, those independent, outside firms projected that losses would have remained in excess of $80,000 annually,” Cazzetta said.

The College Association is close to signing a contract with a new vendor for the self-serve kiosks, Cazzetta said.

Cazzetta said for years food service had been a losing proposition and had been underwritten by revenue from book sales. But in recent years revenue from book sales had been undercut by entities like Barns & Noble, Amazon and eBay. Tax forms representing the 2014-15 school year, the most recent available, show food service was in the red by $150,297 while the bookstore netted $186,595.

Paul Katz, a student from Bridgeville, said many students knew the staff’s names by heart and, in turn, staff knew their favorite meals. He didn’t like the food kiosk idea.

“It’s almost a convenient store on a wall,” Katz said.

Kaitlyn Mann, a 19-year-old student from Gardiner, said those in charge should try to find some other way to save money without cutting jobs.

“Our biggest concern right now, it’s with the staff. They’re the sweetest people,” Mann said.

Cazzetta said that telling his staff on Friday that they were losing their jobs was one of the hardest things he’s had to do.

“The board and I are sympathetic to the fact that this decision results in several longtime Association employees losing their jobs,” Cazzetta said.

Jessica Melchick, who’s been a food staffer in the Shepard Center for four years, said the staff cried when they heard about the layoffs, but was also concerned that the college will be losing the personal of touch of food “made with love.”

“I’m really upset for the students, it makes our day to see the students,” Melchick said.

Nichole McClary, who began working in the Rowley Center five months ago for about $12 an hour, said she loved the job. Looking for a new job will change her plans to spend time with her 2-year-old, she said.

“I was looking forward to having the summer off,” she said.


Popular posts from this blog

Report: World’s 1st remote brain surgery via 5G network performed in China

Visualizing The Power Of The World's Supercomputers

BMW traps alleged thief by remotely locking him in car