C-Store equipment concerns to be addressed to Aramark

November 18, 2005

Equipment failures at Aramarks Expressway convenience store (C-Store) have caused abrupt closures and frustration among some students.

A two-door freezer unit broke down at the beginning of the semester and could not be repaired, resulting in the immeidate order of a replacement. Michael Newmark, Director of Operations for Dining Services said that, I am frustrated with the long replacement time as anyone else. Once it was determined that the freezer could not be fixed a new one was ordered.

The freezer needs to be custom built to the store specifications and despite repeated attempts by management to speed up the process with the manufacturer, there has been little success. The new unit is expected to arrive by the end of the week.

The unit itself is said to be very profitable. Dining Services has attempted to minimize revenue losses by over-stocking the other working freezer with many of the most requested and popular student items. Mr. Newmark said that any lack of student demand of quickly replacing the freezer has had no impact on replacing the unit. Rest assured that I have been very demanding, and have complained more about this issue to the Store manager [Jeff Wood] as well as the manufacturer to get the new freezer in.

Another more noticeable, recent problem was the abrupt closure of the store on November 5. Students hoping to purchase items during the day were met with a locked door and a sign that read The Expressway Convenience Store is Closed due to Register Problems. Sorry for the inconvenience! Several students have complained about the issue.

East Quad Senator Jacob Baime 08 wrote a letter to the Dining Services Advisory Committee, a university committee with student representatives appointed by the Union President. In it he asked the committee to launch an investigation into this incident, stating that the closure was particularly troubling because it occurred at a time when few other dining options were available on campus.

Dining Services states that the main University server that supports the C-Store register system crashed. The register system was thus unable to operate and was reopened at 7:30 p.m. when the server was restored. Mr. Newmark says that [Dining Services] has no control on when and how quickly the server could be fixed. This was apparently the first time that anything like this has occurred in recent history.

Brandeis Library and Technology Services (LTS) has done an analysis to make sure that this problem does not occur again. Because the register was not operational, conducting cash transactions while attending to the problem was not possible, Dining Services stated.

When asked if a large level of student response to such problems can impact how similar eventualities would be handled in the future, Mr. Newmark responded that, We always encourage feedback.

Students are able to use comment card boxes in Usdan and the staff emails are available on the Dining Services website. Additionally, managers are instructed to be on the floor with customers at all possible times. Specifically, C-Store Manager Jeff Wood is frequently on the floor or working the register, available to directly take student feedback.

The Dining Services Advisory Committee met for the first time on this matter with Aramark yesterday and will be reporting to the Union Senate on Sunday.

Alison Schwartzbaum 08, student coordinator of the Committee, states that their meetings are, in general, very productive.

Aramark speaks with the students to find ways to improve conditions in the dining halls. They discuss a range of topics, from faster ketchup dispenser filling to improving the condition of The Stein.

Other subjects that have been discussed include improving the Kosher C-store, hiring more students or increasing hours of workers at high traffic times, adding another person to the Usdan omelete station in the mornings, and having two cashiers at the Boulevard on Sunday nights.

Schwartzbaum notes, They [Aramark] are very open to suggestions. The whole meeting they constantly stressed that they want feedback from students. Overall student feedback seems to have been quite effective and is welcomed by Aramark to improve conditions in the dining halls.

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