Starbucks, staffing and scrambling

Like many businesses, Hamline’s Dining Services have felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anika Besst, News Editor

Junior Abby White has a weekly routine of getting Starbucks with a friend every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

For White, Starbucks is a “comfort drink,” and, like White, visiting Hamline’s Starbucks is a highlight of many students’ days. 

Since the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, Starbucks has experienced a few hiccups impacting the Hamline community’s ability to get their cafe treats. 

Student-workers speculate that due to the unusual circumstances of last year because of COVID-19, Starbucks and Dining Services were less prepared and staffed coming into this fall than years past. 

This was exemplified one day in September when a rumor was circulating that Starbucks was closed due to health violations when in reality it was closed due to understaffing. 

Additionally, employees have also been quitting, such as the Starbucks supervisor. 

Senior Khaleese Figaro, who is in her fourth year working at Starbucks, believes last year’s circumstances are responsible for a large part of this year’s turmoil. 

“We used to have a lot more people my freshman and sophomore year, and then COVID hit… last year some people didn’t come back because of COVID reasons… so overall we have less staff, but with that being said, we also had less hours so having less staff members was fine,” Figaro said. “We operated normally, we were open on weekends. Everything was good but then this year coming back, having less staff members, being open for like roughly the same amount of time, but having less staff members with a higher number of students coming back, it was harder to like deal with that transition…I do believe we did a great job and we now have a more full staff, we have to train them, but due to COVID, it was really hard to come back full strength while being like crippled.”

Emma Harrington, who is in her second year of working at Starbucks, has noticed this shift. 

“I would just say that it’s been a little more chaotic in terms of, well, last year there was barely anybody on campus,” Harrington said. “So this year with this influx of people and restrictions being lifted, there are a lot more people coming in to get Starbucks, first of all, so it’s just a different experience working there…there just wasn’t as many student workers right off the bat.” 

This is similar to what a new Starbucks employee has experienced. Sophomore Taylor Atkins has been at Starbucks for two weeks. 

“My first day of training three of the people working were training and there was a huge rush that even some of the people that had been there for a while were having trouble with,” Atkins said. 

Not all customers have necessarily noticed the unusualness of staffing. If anything, it coincides with all the pandemic-related stressors people face in every capacity of their life. 

White describes almost all of her experiences this year as satisfactory. 

“It seems like it’s adequate [staffing],” White said. “At the beginning of the semester it did take a long time to get our drinks, and then they were closed a few times and the last time I went there I got it fairly quickly.”

Starbucks is a work-study position that relies on students, along with their handful of full-time staff. Currently they do have fewer full-time employees because of turnover. 

“There have been staff shortages and moments where we should have more people working, but they’re just, we’re students working, we’re busy we have classes we have other orgs that we’re involved in, and it’s not easy to, if someone calls out of a shift, have someone come in because we all have very tight schedules,” Harrington said. “I would say that there have been some shortages, but I think it helps that we’re getting more people trained currently, so it seems like it’s hopefully going to get better.” 

Harrington added that the overall environment feels different than the past year, related to COVID-19 safety, a reason some employees had to leave last year. 

“I’m definitely, this year, less worried about getting sick from work which is nice, just because I know that we’re all vaccinated and we all are masked,” she said. 

Moving forward, student employees feel things will quickly fall into place while recognizing there are aspects that need to be improved. 

Harrington hopes to see communication improve from all sides of Starbucks after this. Atkins agrees with the importance of communication improving. 

“I hope that there’s more communication between people, because if this was like a job out in the real world, and you just called in five minutes before a shift and said you couldn’t come in, you’d be fired, but we don’t have enough people to just fire people,” Atkins said. 

Figaro thinks it would benefit to have more full-time employees since Starbucks cannot pull people from Dining Services when understaffed the same way the Bishop’s Bistro can since Starbucks requires different training and skill sets. 

“They put a lot of filling of the shifts on the students… I feel like maybe if we had more full-time baristas because right now we only have two,” Figaro said. “I hope that Dining Services reaches out to get more full-timers who would preferably already know what they’re doing so we don’t have to train them too. They can just be there to be a solid person who’s there at a certain time every day, rather than maybe like once a week for three hours or something like most students operate.” 

Dining Services were contacted and did not provide a comment.