Ted Faulkner, director of Dining Service at Virginia Tech, didn't blink twice when he spoke of the 800 new workers his program hired over the last three months.
"We've got it under wraps," he said. "Traditionally we struggle getting staff on board these first few weeks of school. This is just like any other year."
That's not to say the department was not preparing for a storm. The opening of Turner Place at Lavery Hall this fall created well over 400 new jobs for dining services to fill.
"On a regular year, we hire anywhere between 300 and 450 new workers each fall," Faulkner said. "This year, we hired about 600 new student workers and 800 new workers overall, with 539 of those hires happening in just the last few weeks of August."
To prepare, dining services took on a recruiting push similar to its past approach, Faulkner said. It advertised on table cards and in dining halls, through presentations at freshman orientation and through department-wide job fairs designed to bring in new student and wage workers.
The recruiting process isn't over; with 150 more student positions left to fill, Faulkner said a new wave of information crops up regarding hiring.
"Student's will start to see more flyers and table tents pop up starting next week," Faulkner said. "In Owens, they've set up a free standing information and hiring booth that people can stop by."
All applications and hiring notifications are still handled electronically, but student managers are available at the information booths to answer questions and help students figure out the hiring process.
"We had a unique situation with two back-to-back home football games at the beginning of the year," Faulkner said. "That probably influenced students applying. Now that we've settled into the year, we're expecting to see those last positions filled."
According to Turner Place assistant director John Barrett, the harder positions to fill are the salary and wage worker openings.
"It's harder to fill those nine-to-five work shifts when students are in class," Barrett said. "A lot of it has to do with skill level, but it's also harder to find those who still want to work in food services."
Barrett credits student staff, particularly the student management, with a lot of the hiring success.
"I can't say enough good things about my student managers. They've been working since they've come back with pulling applicants, scheduling interviews and hiring," Barrett said.
The influx of these new workers, he says, is a bigger issue than the actual hiring.
"For years, you just had the same dining hall, you knew what to expect," Barrett said. "Now, we're faced with a new set of expectations, and there's just a lot that's unknown. A lot of support from (the franchises) too. We're not trying to figure it out from the ground up, and it's a tremendous help."
With the challenge they were faced with, Barrett said things have gone fairly well. Now, the focus is on filling the last few student openings.
"I think this whole process has gone better then expected," Barrett said. "Now we're just trying to get the word out that we're still hiring, and that students get a free meal with every shift."