The Omicron outbreak has hit cafes and food outlets across Otago Uni hard. One to two fewer students on campus and staffing shortages have led to financial losses and gradual closures of outlets.
University Union is like the Pablo Escobar of the Dunedin campus – giving students the merchandise, raking the dough. Owned by the university, they manage all the outlets on campus, from Frankly Sandwiches to the Staff Club to the gift shop at St Dave’s. They power each room, as well as the management and catering of most Uni events. With the one brave exception of Chatime, this is the world of University Union, and we simply live in it.
This money tap, backed by time-limited staff and caffeine-fixing students, has recently been hit hard. Omicron’s rapid spread in the student community has not spared Union’s team of baristas and sandwich artists, many of whom are students. This forced the phased closures of the Union store network. A student employee said he had “had to move staff between our stores, cafes and help deliver packages to isolated freshmen”.
Additionally, with the Omicron outbreak moving most learning online and large portions of students and staff isolating or working from home, those showing up for work seem to be twiddling their thumbs, with little to do except watch the few students on campus hurry past.
Uni’s Director of Campus Services and Collegiate Life, James Lindsay, confirmed this, telling reviewer Te Arohi that “the Omicron epidemic, coupled with a shift to online learning, has seen fewer students and staff on campus, so our cafes and stores are quieter than Ordinary. This semester we also deployed staff where needed and had staff absent with non-Covid related illness.
While saying there could be “some effect on our bottom line, depending on how long it takes us to get through this wave of Omicron”, James was confident it wouldn’t spell doom for the Union. : “The University Union has diversified sources of income and a large part of the operation caters to almost 2600 students in university colleges. This part of the business is very busy at the moment. If they are looking to make up for budget shortfalls, Critic suggests that the University Union open a student bar, which is surely a responsible and risk-free endeavor.