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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

‘I don’t think anyone here is happy’

Dining staff details struggles under Parkhurst
Photo by Ari Ismail for The Lafayette
Parkhurst management has denied hearing many of the complaints leveled against it by employees.

“With change come challenges” an apology email from Parkhurst Dining read after hundreds of complaints were leveled against it earlier this semester. But according to rank-and-file dining employees, the challenges keep mounting. They say that the company remains riddled with problems, with employees being subjected to an unaccommodating work environment, leading to confusion and anger among the staff.

“The morale has just hit the bare bottom while we’re still trying to put food out for you guys,” Kyle Davis, a sous chef at Marquis Dining Hall, said. Davis said he is quitting on Monday, and he is far from the first to quit this semester.

Several dining staff members have estimated that about a dozen Marquis employees have quit since the college hired Parkhurst Dining this summer, while another 10 have been said to quit from Upper Farinon Dining Hall in the same time frame. Dining administrators expected turnover from Bon Appétit, the former dining provider, but employees have claimed that the resignations occurred after their Parkhurst contract was already signed. This is a part of a worsening “short-staffing issue,” according to Davis.

“It’s just become a toxic environment,” one Marquis chef, who wished to remain anonymous, said. “All of the good cooks that stayed saw the handwriting on the wall and decided ‘I don’t want to have anything to do with this.’ They’ve been jumping ship.”

The Marquis chef said he is quitting next week.

“I don’t think that they’re short-staffed to the extreme,” Geoff Labe, the college’s business services assistant vice president, said. Campus head chef Jason Moyer wrote in an email that he did not know how many employees had quit.

Several remaining dining employees have expressed frustration and disappointment with the work environment under Parkhurst Dining.

“From what we see in the back … the [management] is straight up disrespectful,” Davis said. “They’ve accused two workers of stealing furniture when the furniture just wasn’t there. They’ve fired somebody who was a [temporary worker], saying that she was too slow, but her speed was fine.”

“One of the personal reasons I really don’t like this company is just the blatant rudeness,” Autumn, a staff member at ECO Café who provided only her first name, said. “I’ve seen managers scream at employees already over just simple things.”

Parkhurst Resident District Manager Christine Blaha, who has more than 14 years of experience in dining services, said that there is a healthy, “familial” relationship between the management and dining staff.

More than a dozen dining employees interviewed by The Lafayette disagree.

“They’re not even nice,” a Marquis cashier said of Parkhurst management. “I don’t see them making any adjustments … I’m just really thoroughly disgusted.”

“My chef has barely talked to me since I gave him my two weeks’ notice,” Davis said. “I told him I was leaving. And he said, ‘Okay,’ and closed his office door. My sous chef said he was quitting. [The chef] said, ‘Oh, that sucks.’ And he walked away. It’s a general lack of care.”

Blaha said that she was “not aware of any employees that have left on bad terms.”

Additionally, several dining employees witnessed a Parkhurst executive chef yelling at a student with celiac disease when she approached him about her dietary restrictions. This student, Rebekah Lazar ‘26, described the exchange as “very aggressive and very dehumanizing.”

“I basically left crying, like, near a panic attack, because I was just so stressed out for not being taken care of,” Lazar said. “I’d call it verbally assaulted.”

Dining management told Lazar that it could not guarantee the accommodations she requires. Employees have cited the lack of accommodations for students when describing their issues with Parkhurst Dining.

“It’s obvious that Parkhurst does not care about our time, it does not care about our money and it mostly doesn’t care about the students … they took all the love out of it,” an anonymous employee from ECO Café said. 

Several dining employees said that they are frustrated by a lack of breaks or accommodations.

“Our breaks? No breaks. Lunch, that’s it,” the Marquis cashier said. Several other employees have complained that they have not received 10-minute breaks, with Upper Farinon employees reporting that on a couple of busy days, there were no breaks at all.

“We do have a slightly different break policy, but every employee is given a lunch break, free food and beverage,” Moyer wrote.

Blaha insisted that the company abides by the law in giving breaks to employees.

Two elderly employees said that they were expected to stand for the duration of the eight-hour work day, a work day during which they had not received a 10-minute break.

“I mean, if it’s a sandwich person … it would be difficult to have a person behind the line sitting in a chair,” Blaha said. “If someone has provided us with a doctor’s note that says they …  have a need for something, those are always honored.”

The Marquis cashier said that she worked without a chair at the register for at least two weeks despite bringing a doctor’s note.

“I brought a doctor’s excuse …  and [management] said, ‘Bring your own chair,’” she said. “I said, ‘That’s not my responsibility.’”

Last week, the cashier was provided with a chair.

“You know how it was with [Bon Appétit], they were so friendly,” the cashier said. “They’d bend over backward to help you. Such a big change. Maybe it’s time for me to retire.”

An Upper Farinon employee added that, since Parkhurst took over, cushioned slip-resistant mats were removed from the kitchen that used to make standing more comfortable. Additionally, he reported that ventilation in the dining halls has led to unbearable heat.

“During the beginning of the school year, the AC broke a few times. And it was really hard to work,” the Upper Farinon employee said. “When we were closing, I ended up passing out twice because of how hot and humid it was during the night.”

According to Labe, the administration is unable to comment on specific employee health matters.

“It’s not something that Parkhurst really has control of, but they could assist. They really could,” the Upper Farinon employee said. “I didn’t notice anyone trying to solve it.”

Marquis employees have complained of extreme heat in the kitchen. Blaha, Labe and Shelley Canonico, a Parkhurst district manager, did not comment on the existence of air conditioning systems in the dining halls.

Employees have also expressed frustration with a lack of training and direction from Parkhurst.

“We did our training from what we learned from the previous employer, Bon Appétit,” John Shandor, who works the grill at Upper Farinon, said. 

Blaha said that employees received adequate training during a “week-long meeting” at the beginning of the semester.

Shandor mentioned that one day no one was scheduled to work the deli station in Upper Farinon, so he worked both the grill and the deli during his shift.

“We are family focused and … who we work with becomes our family because we’re here more than we are with our actual blood relatives,” Blaha said when asked about allegations of employees doing multiple jobs. “So, you know, we want to be able to help these other people out and we all rely on each other.”

“This is integral to their growth,” Canonico said. “And sometimes when you cross-train, you find out that you’re awesome on pizza. You find out skills that they’ve been hiding that they haven’t had a chance to show.”

Lafayette is not the first school to see pushback against Parkhurst. Duquesne University in Pittsburgh saw employees walk out last year over labor conditions while Taylor University in Indiana, according to its student newspaper, fired the company just a year into its contract due to repeated, “basic mistakes.”

Labe said that Lafayette would investigate all allegations of wrongdoing raised against Parkhurst.

“This is a partnership between the college and Parkhurst so, one hundred percent, we take those allegations extremely seriously,” Labe said. “If anybody were to come up to me and say ‘X, Y or Z is happening in the kitchen,’ we as the college would take that seriously.”

Parkhurst has a proprietary “hotline” for employees to voice their concerns to upper management, a hotline that Labe said has gone unused. Dining administrators have denied hearing of most concerns leveled by employees.

Andreas Pelekis ’26 contributed reporting.

View Comments (9)
About the Contributors
Selma O'Malley
Selma O'Malley, News Editor
Waiting for someone to write a sitcom about a college newspaper.
Trebor Maitin
Trebor Maitin, Managing Editor
Pennsylvania enthusiast.
Emma Chen
Emma Chen, Managing Editor
Emma has very strong opinions about crust, has never eaten a blueberry, and is a staunch hater of AP style.
Madeline Marriott
Madeline Marriott, Editor-in-Chief
Maddie (she/her) is a senior English major with a Government & Law minor. As the Editor-in-Chief, a Mentor Writing Associate, a Senior Student Contributor for Lafayette Communications, a Communications Intern for the Office of Sustainability, co-founder and Vice President of English Club, and a Senior Interviewer for Lafayette Admissions, no writing happens on campus without her knowing about it. Her Google Calendar would make your head spin. She is a die-hard Swiftie and Phillies fan, a collector of tote bags, a builder of a Hay Day empire, and an avid Goodreads and Letterboxd user. She smokes cigars and uses an old-timey typewriter and notepad in the newsroom.
Ari Ismail
Ari Ismail, Staff Photographer

Comments (9)

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  • N

    NicmApr 21, 2024 at 7:51 am

    I worked at a parkhurst account in Philadelphia for 3 months and it was a huge mistake. What we talked about in my interview was not reality. My hiring manager refused to train me or give me access to anything. I was regularly micromanaged. The last month I was there I was folding pizza boxes because a morning supervisor quit. Turn over was insane. Stay away from parkhurst, they’re a total joke.

  • H

    Holly BushSep 16, 2023 at 10:49 am

    As a former Bon Appetit employee, who was harassed and verbally abused and assaulted physically by being made to perform the labor of three people during nonstop catered events without any monetary compensation for doing so, I find this entire article hysterical.

    No one had any issue with staff being forced to work 16 hour days without proper meal breaks, shade, or bathroom breaks during outdoor VIP events. No one had issues with the company clocking hours off time sheets when the associates were still working so they wouldn’t receive OT; or making them move tables that the union operates should be moving because they are properly trained on how to do it without physical injury and have the gear to move heavy objects.

    Now the students are getting a taste of yet another dysfunctional company. Just bring back Sodexo and call it a day. These other companies don’t know what they’re doing -nor do they care about retention of their employees. They’d rather keep plowing through cheaper unskilled and unsafe temp labor (because temps don’t qualify for benefits or OT and their labor is a total tax write off. And while regular employees have to go through extensive background checks – some of these temps are working under false documentation ) but saving money and having people who are too scared of being deported to demand fair labor practices is more important than building a cohesive team and working infrastructure that serves the students whose parents pay a small fortune for food services. Go figure. You get what you pay for and when students wind up in the hospital because of this disorganized nonsense perhaps the accountants in the finance office will understand that safety, training, and retaining a reputable staff is priceless.

  • G

    GoobsSep 16, 2023 at 10:34 am

    I think an investigation into Parkhurst’s potential violations of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is absolutely warranted in this case.

  • K

    Kilgore TroutSep 16, 2023 at 9:44 am

    Christine Blaha is a garbage human being. I personally witnessed her taking away the chair form an elderly woman who works swiping dining cards at Marquis Hall. This poor worker is 75 years old and needs to work to make a living. The chair did not affect her job performance whatsoever. Blaha is cruel, as is the entire, toxic company that is Parkhurst. She is truly a corporate shill who cares nothing for workers or their rights. Parkhurst is anti-union and anti-workers rights. They are truly a terrible, exploitative company. This was a terrible decision on behalf of Lafayette and the board of trustees. There was a mass exodus of former Bon Appetit employees. Parkhurst will be perpetually understaffed because of the way they treat their workers. It will not improve.

  • B

    BWSep 15, 2023 at 1:05 pm

    Insanity is when you do the same thing over and over and expecting different response. Obviously, there is a negative history with food vendor services. Why not consult with the co-op in town and see if you can form a relationship? Maybe work with some of the restaurants and see if you can form a relationship and bring food on site, there are schools in Pennsylvania that do things like this and it’s wonderful.

  • J

    JenniferSep 15, 2023 at 9:02 am

    Parent here, who was victimized by this school’s disgusting food last May.
    Lafayette: Parents are paying a ton of money for their kids to grace your halls and make your school the fine institution it is. GET YOUR SH*T TOGETHER AND FIX THIS!

    • A

      AddieSep 15, 2023 at 11:08 am

      Hi Jennifer,

      Just an FYI, the College had a different food vendor in May.

    • E

      ErinSep 15, 2023 at 3:37 pm

      “victimized” by a caterer. You aren’t dramatic at all Karen!

      • S

        ScoobertSep 22, 2023 at 4:30 pm

        She has a point. It’s an expensive place to send your kids.