WOW student-employees quit because of delays in table service

Half of the student-employees working at WOW Wingery and Cafe quit Monday over frustration with management and complaints about wages.

Four of eight students working at the southwestern-style chicken wing venue tendered a letter of resignation to managers of Sodexho, the University’s food-service provider. When the undergraduates began their employment at the start of the semester, they signed up to be servers at a full-service restaurant that would have tips.

After repeated delays in having table service, the four decided it was not worth working there, with an hourly wage of $7.50 without gratuities.

Sophomore Allan Johnson, one of the four students who quit Monday, said he was tired with managers’ “excuses and broken promises” about the terms of his job. The sophomore was made a floor manager in charge of scheduling for all the student-employees.

“We felt that Sodexho did not fulfill their end of the bargain when we were hired … I worked there for six weeks and we were repeatedly told we were going to be made full service, and that never materialized,” Johnson said.

WOW was originally slated to open at the end of August 2006, but faced numerous delays because of permit and construction setbacks. The food venue was supposed to have full table service when it opened Jan. 17, but had staffing challenges as well.

By late February, the wingery was due to have waiters and waitresses, GW administrator Nancy Haaga said in late January. She said the wait-times, which typically ranged from 15 to 30 minutes, would decrease with time.

“The WOW staff is working hard to get fully up to speed in all aspects of the new WOW, and speed of service is expected to improve as the staff become more familiar with the operation and master the ‘learning curve,'” said Haaga, managing director of Campus Support Services.

Haaga said Tuesday that she had not heard about the group resignation, and she did not return several phone calls from The Hatchet Wednesday.

Sam Ramos, director of operations of Dining Services and a Sodexho manager, said he does not expect WOW to go full service until next school year. He said Sodexho is waiting on a liquor license before the food venue will have servers.

D.C. officials and the University have said that approval may not come before May. Regardless, with WOW closing for the summer because fewer students will be on campus, Ramos said it would make sense to begin table service in the fall.

He confirmed that the group resignation occurred because the students were not waiting on tables as planned. He said this was not unusual and that the food-service industry frequently has shifts in employment.

“This is the restaurant business. It happens day-in and day-out. It happens everywhere,” Ramos said Wednesday afternoon.

Johnson said he had left his previous job, which paid about $100 more weekly than WOW, because he wanted to interact with students and work on campus. The sophomore said he receives financial aid and relied on salary from the wingery to be at GW.

“It just kind of sucked all the way around. I lost a good six weeks where I could make money,” Johnson said. “I pretty much pay my way through GW, and I need a job on campus … It was impossible for me to work there under the circumstances.”

Some of these circumstances, Johnson said, include the lethargic work attitude of the older Sodexho employees who manned the kitchen and the inability of managers to increase productivity.

“(Y)ou need people in the back of the kitchen who are going to be working with a high volume of orders and get that in a timely manner … and that system never materialized,” Johnson said.

Junior George Ho, who left WOW Monday, said he thought students could have done a more efficient job than the older, overworked employees, which would have improved the working conditions at the food venue.

“I wouldn’t call them lazier. They are very nice people, which is something you can’t see if you don’t work there … They were just as understaffed as we were, and they work like 12 or so hours a day,” Ho said.

Tammy Liu, a WOW supervisor, declined to comment Wednesday night on the criticisms from the former student-employee. Other Sodexho officials could not be reached to respond to the students’ complaints about the unionized workers, who were not allowed to speak with The Hatchet. GW Media Relations also would not comment on the former employee’s negative portrayal of the food venue’s operations.

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