Student Union workers serve 25 thousand people daily
Published: Sunday, July 29, 2012
Updated: Sunday, July 29, 2012 17:07
Sebastian Marcet routinely falls asleep at his work desk, specks of paint clinging to his forearms. In the morning, he will put aside his current landscape painting, clean up as best he can and come into work at the Corner Cafe. When you roll in during the lunchtime rush, he will politely ask if you want mayo on that, much like he asked the 80,000 students who preceded you in line since Marcet began working at the Student Union two years ago.
The Union saw the equivalent of the entire population of New York City walk through its doors last year, but few know and tend to take for granted the staff who make the place run smoothly.
The sun has barely worked its way over Classroom Building 1 as a 5-axle Gordon Food Service truck idles next to the receiving dock, dropping off its precious load of black beans, queso and other ingredients for Qdoba manager Johnny Goforth to check off his list.
Marcet’s delivery guy has already come and gone. The boxes of produce and meat in front of the Corner Cafe display case are already stacked when Marcet arrives at 7:45 a.m.
He pulls out the inventory list. Four hundred-plus pounds received. It’s a small delivery.
“During the regular semester, we average 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of food,” Marcet said.
Corner Cafe, Green’s Salad Bar, All Stirred Up and Asian Chao are under the ownership of one man. Marcet oversees delivery for them all. With a restaurant career spanning 10 years, he’s more accustomed to fine dining cuisine and finer check amounts. After the economy took a nosedive and $60 entrees grew out of reach for even the spooniest of spoon fed, Marcet gave his restaurant six-month’s notice before he left all of his worldly possessions behind and took a week-long bicycle ride to Orlando.
These days, being a certified sommelier across the atrium from Wackadoo’s hasn’t exactly served him well, but Marcet has nevertheless found managing people is the same, whether you’re in fine dining or majoring in fine arts.
But even work on a constantly hungry campus population is fraught with peril, especially after another more well-known poultry eatery opened up.
“We used to have a line out the door,” he said, motioning to the sectioned-off area for customers to wait in line. “After Chick-fil-A opened, our business tanked.”
Marcet estimates half his customers for Corner Cafe are now lunching at the John T. Washington Center. Despite the decline, Marcet enjoys serving people.
“It’s rewarding in that way,” he said.
His almost 12-hour shifts are tough, but he’s glad he gets weekends off. It gives him time to paint.
“When I’m not cooking, I’m painting,” Marcet said.
Whitney Hall, manager of Joffrey’s Coffee, rolls in at 6:50 a.m. She’s running late.
Her co-worker arrives moments after she flicks on the display cooler, and the two engage in a well-orchestrated dance, sliding past each other to pour beans into the grinder, stacking milk steamers and stocking a new delivery of pastries.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee fills the air as Colombian and French vanilla blends drip into the gallon-and-a-half urns. Colombian sees an uptick in popularity during the summer months, as it is overall favored by staff and faculty. During a regular semester, French vanilla is in higher demand, a favorite among students.
In a fall or spring semester, they will run through about 430 pounds of coffee. It’s about half that during the summer, Hall said.
Bleary-eyed orientation team members and attendees alike begin to trickle into line as Hall sets out the first coffee urn of the day. She said the line can get 50 to 60 people deep as people steel themselves in the minutes leading up to orientation, and then it dies down until a 10 a.m. coffee break.
Suzi Halpin, director of the Student Union, estimates more than 300 people work in the Student Union.
“Our staff work exceptionally hard to make the Student Union a first-class facility for the thousands of people who walk through our doors every day,” she said in an email.
The crush of more than 25,000 people squeezing daily into the 266,950-square-foot Student Union during a regular semester not only runs the bill up to $60,000 per month; it also calls for a small army of custodial staff to keep the place immaculate at all times.
In one month, 719,799 people will go through 1,260 rolls of toilet paper — enough to cover the Bright House Network Stadium at least once — almost 32 gallons of handsoap and 1,280 sleeves of paper towels, Gary Campbell, senior building superintendent said in an email.
Mayra Centeno, a custodial worker, has worked at the Student Union for 10 years. Six years ago, she could get to work at 7 a.m. Now, she arrives two hours earlier.