Sodexo struggles with understaffing, overworked employees


Gabrielle Korein

Photo Illustration

Loyola’s dining services are struggling to find enough staff to serve a full capacity campus after being forced to lay off employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sodexo Manager Charles Casrill said. As Sodexo tries to keep up with dining demands, student employees say they are overwhelmed and overworked.

“You’re pretty much just in that small area for a good six hours being constantly stressed out,” Gabby D’Angelo, criminal justice sophomore, former Starbucks employee said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a global labor shortage, and Sodexo wasn’t immune to its effects. With the return to a full-capacity campus, record-breaking freshman enrollment numbers, and the reinstatement of reciprocal dining with Tulane, Sodexo’s staffing shortages are causing longer wait times, shorter hours, and less stations in the OR, Casrill said.

D’Angelo worked at the campus Starbucks from March to November of this year. She said the work environment was hectic and disorganized, causing students and staff alike to get frustrated. 

She said that she enjoyed most of her coworkers but struggled with management and scheduling. Her schedule would be adjusted up to three times a week and would sometimes never get straightened out, she said.

“The manager would come in and just never actually help when she saw that we were drowning in orders,” D’Angelo said. 

The manager has since left Sodexo, but D’Angelo said problems persist.

D’Angelo said that since the reinstatement of reciprocal dining, visiting Tulane students have added to workers’ stress, making understaffing issues much more apparent. She said that the space isn’t big enough to accommodate both Loyola and Tulane students.

A current Sodexo worker, who chose to remain anonymous due to fear of losing their job, said they like their job and coworkers most of the time, but when they’re short staffed, it gets overwhelming. 

The source said that they don’t have enough staff to train new employees, overwhelming new employees and forcing them to work in roles that they aren’t prepared for. They said that as the semester comes to a close, burnout is becoming a problem. Employees say they are getting sick and asking to go home, but they’re often declined or face repercussions.

Employees are working hard and trying to show up, but struggling to take care of their mental and physical health, the source said. 

Sodexo is trying to mitigate some of the effects of understaffing by offering incentives to employees who pick up shifts when someone calls in, or work on days that they’re not usually scheduled. Employees that pick up shifts are offered $50, according to Casrill. 

Casrill said he’s trying to prevent burnout by giving employees extended lunch breaks. Employees get a 15-minute break for every four hours they work and after eight hours they have a 30-minute lunch break, according to Casrill. He said he tries to extend their lunch break to 45 to 60 minutes to give them downtime, but some Sodexo employees said that when they’re understaffed, they don’t get breaks at all, adding to their exhaustion. 

The source said that employees are expected to put their emotions aside and act professionally, ignoring their needs and putting the customers first.

As Sodexo tries to keep up with student demands, employees are asking for patience from Sodexo and students alike. 

“We’re going to class, coming straight from there, and are required to go to work and serve other students,” the employee said. “I think that people need to realize that the people working need a little more understanding and compassion.” 

Sodexo is working to fix staffing issues and has openings in every spot but is struggling to find applicants, Casrill said. He said that Sodexo has dedicated employees that have worked at the school for over 20 years, but they’re having to work with temp agencies to fill in the gaps. On days when they don’t have enough employees, they have to close some food stations in the OR, open later, or close earlier.

“We’re trying to give the students and community the best service we can and not put too much strain on our own employees,” Casrill said. “It’s a delicate balance.” 

Casrill said they’re also having difficulties getting applicants to show up for their  scheduled interviews. Sodexo books around 10 interviews a week, but Casrill said only two or three of the applicants actually attend them. Despite struggles with staffing, Casrill said that Sodexo has dedicated employees that have been with the school for years that will  keep dining services running. 

“Without them,” Casrill said, “we would be in a much worse place.”