Columbus, OH

From hot subs to lattes: local food service workers comment on National Food Service Employee Day

The Lantern
Staff members at several restaurants near campus, such as Savvy Sliders, are discussing their work experiences on National Food Service Employee Day. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Lantern File

While Buckeyes typically know their favorite menu items by heart — a specialty Hot Sub from Varsity Club, a Boomin’ Chicken slider from Savvy Sliders, a Charles Dickens latte from Kafe Kerouac — they often don’t consider how their dishes make it from the kitchen to the table.

Today marks National Food Service Employee Day; according to National Today , the day commemorates staff within the food service industry, acknowledging the work that goes into ensuring “food establishments run smoothly.” Employees at local restaurants and cafes are able to lend insight into the highs and the lows of their jobs.

According to its website , Varsity Club is “a piece of Columbus tradition.” Located at 278 W. Lane Ave., and offering patrons “the biggest tailgate party in the Columbus area,” the family-friendly restaurant and bar serves up classic dishes like cheeseburgers, pizza and mozzarella sticks.

Shilo Lottes, a Varsity Club server and a third-year in athletic training at Ohio State, said Buckeye spirit runs rampant within the restaurant due to foot traffic generated by ongoing local sporting events.

“It’s like a family, we all love to hang out,” Lottes said. “We love to work together and it’s always a very fun environment.”

Despite the enjoyable work climate, Lottes said she feels a common misconception of the food industry is that it’s easy work.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Lottes said. “I think a lot of people think it’s super easy and all you’re doing is running food, taking orders, but it’s a lot more being personable and having a relationship with your customers.”

Lottes said while Varsity Club is near campus, college students are by no means the only audience to whom the restaurant caters. In reality, she said, a majority of the Varsity Club clientele is Ohio State alumni, likely because of its proximity to event spaces like the football stadium and the Schottenstein Center.

“On game days we get super busy because we’re close,” Lottes said. “On a regular day, we don’t have the normal college crowd coming in, it’s usually a lot of alumni. But then on game days, everyone’s coming in because they can come in and have a few drinks, grab some dinner before they walk to their event.”

Kafe Kerouac — a popular coffee house and bar located at 2250 N. High St. — is “an alternative space” to spend time with friends and enjoy an array of coffee drinks, baked goods and even alcoholic beverages, according to its website .

Zane Marcott, a barista and bartender at Kafe Kerouac, said he held the common misconception that his food industry job would be more laid back until he actually started working the position.

“Some people would assume this job is a lot more hanging out, but I think there’s a lot more work that goes into it,” Marcott said.

Another well-known eatery close to campus is Savvy Sliders, located at 2106 N. High Street. According to its website , “the fastest growing slider brand” offers menu items like slider sandwiches, chicken tenders and custard shakes.

Landon McElroy, a cashier at Savvy Sliders and a third-year in computer science and engineering at Ohio State, said he doesn’t think people realize what it’s like to be on the other side of the register.

“There’s a fast food stigma,” McElroy said. “It’s like, ‘Okay, these guys are working fast food, you must have nothing else going on.’”

Nevertheless, McElroy said he prefers working close to a college campus.

“You do get some shenanigans here and there, which, that part’s not as good, but it’s good to have people your age, just talk to them, chat, show it up a bit,” McElroy said.

According to Holiday , people can get involved with National Food Service Employee Day by going out for a meal, leaving a generous tip and sharing kind words with the staff.

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