Aramark workers get pink slips

Seven J Street employees are out of work after Aramark, the company that runs the food court, announced a round of layoffs on Valentine’s Day. Since August 2004, 25 positions have been eliminated at J Street. The reductions now bring J Street staffing to below May 2004 levels.

Leanne Scott-Brown, a spokesperson for Aramark’s business unit, wrote in an e-mail that the seven full-time positions were eliminated for several reasons, including a decrease in J Street customers. She did not provide J Street traffic statistics. University officials also do not release traffic numbers.

Aramark reported a 30 percent reduction in food court traffic last academic year. The J Street renovations, which cost about $4.5 million, were meant to stimulate more student demand.

While the seven positions were officially eliminated on Monday, workers won’t know who will remain employed and who is out of a job until the end of the week, one J Street employee said. The staffer also added that this most recent round of layoffs is only the first stage of dismissals and said there will be more job losses come March.

University officials noted that Aramark is responsible for managing J Street and said they are not involved in Aramark’s staffing.

Louis Katz, GW’s executive vice president and treasurer, said last week that he thinks Aramark has enough workers manning J Street. He spoke with The Hatchet before Monday’s layoffs were disclosed.

“The question is, are they (laying off people) in a reasonable way?” Katz said. “And the workers themselves have to judge that.”

Employees said they believe the quality of service they can offer customers will drop now that the food court is operating with fewer hands. They did not want their names used out of fear for their employment status.

One J Street worker said he expected service to plummet, and another said service would become “terrible.”

“It’s bad now – with the cut it will be even worse,” one worker said.

The employee, a female, noted that J Street is already making adjustments to the loss of workers. For example, customers now serve themselves slices of pizza from Tuscan Oven, while earlier this year employees served them, she said.

“Consumers want fast service and that will be hard to provide,” she said.

In an e-mail, Kate Moran, Aramark’s communications manager, said Aramark management is addressing two issues: “speed of service” and “customer service skills.”

Moran added that Aramark is hoping to improve service and speed by hosting contests for employees, starting an employee of the month program and promoting open communication with GW and Aramark staff.

Aramark has already amended hours of J Street venues numerous times. In August, some eateries remained open as late as 2 a.m. However, as the company adjusted to what it described as a lack of demand for late-night eats, closing times were cut back to 9 and 10 p.m. this semester. Starbucks is the sole J Street vender open until 11 p.m.

Katz said Aramark is laying off workers partly because of the hour cutbacks.

Aramark recently began hosting focus groups to analyze the quality of J Street – something that has been done every semester for the last two years, Moran said.

“We are continually making adjustments to our program,” Moran said. “We are constantly striving to bring the right product to the right people at the right time.”

She cited the addition of hot breakfast at Tuscan Oven, the “completely reinvented” menus of Miso and Tuscan Oven and expanded hours of District Market Express as examples of ways J Street is improving.

Aramark officials urged students to submit feedback by visiting gwdining.gwu.edu or Marvin Center Room 311.

– Michael Barnett contributed to this report.

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