Food feature

McKinley’s workers discuss students, love of their job

One of two locations to get meals at Allegheny College, McKinley’s Food Court distinguishes itself from Brooks Dining Hall for its made-to-go food. Even though the primary purpose of McKinley’s is to provide food to students, people can forget about those who have to do the work that gets the food into students’ hands.

Since McKinley’s is separated by food stations such as the Cantina and the Grill, there are many different workers who interact with students on a daily basis. The employees at McKinley’s find that working in the food court is such an enjoyable experience, in large part, because of the students.

Dawn Kozak, who often greets students with a smile at the East Street Deli, has been working for McKinley’s for about five years. Just like other employees, she said she, too, looks forward to seeing the students when she comes to work.

“They are always pleasant, and they always ask how your day is and what’s going on,” Kozak said. “They make you feel like you are apart of it and you mean a lot to them, like they mean a lot to us. It’s not just a job here, you become a part of their lives, their college lives, some of the best years of their lives.”

The students who Kozak has met and grown to know have left lasting impressions on her — so much so that she views the students as the reason why she still works for McKinley’s.

“It’s the kids,” Kozak said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the kids.”

At the Cantina, Cody Bradshaw serves students  quesadillas and nachos while mixing in some friendly conversation. This is his second year working for McKinley’s, and Bradshaw said he is happy to be a member of the Allegheny community.

“Honestly it is the environment — you come here and the coworkers are all very happy,” Bradshaw said. “You can crack a couple jokes and you are not stressed out too much, it’s pretty relaxed here and not too stressful.”

Samantha Ritteger, an employee of over six years, has the same view as Bradshaw when it comes to the friendly  McKinley’s atmosphere. The aspect of work that makes it enjoyable for her is meeting and seeing everyone throughout her shift, especially the regulars.

“This year I am a float, so I get to jump into every station, so I kind of get regulars at each one,” Ritteger said. “I used to be smoothies, so I loved seeing the regulars. I liked catching the new ones, and I would just go off with their specials.”

One thing that both Bradshaw and Ritteger agree on is  that remembering students’ names is much harder than remembering their orders.

“I might not remember your name but I will remember your order,” Ritteger said. “That’s pride when we can do that.”

Ritteger and Bradshaw also noted that they appreciate when students converse with them. They said they enjoy when they can make jokes and have conversations with the students ordering from their station.

“We’re people, we talk,” Bradshaw said. “You know if you are having a bad day we will crack a joke, we get sarcasm here.”

As students head to the registers to pay for their meals, they converse and interact with the cashiers in a similar manner.

Denise Dayton is one of those cashiers, and is someone who many students have interacted with during their time at Allegheny. Dayton said that she also enjoys working at the college because of the students she interacts with, and noted that being around college students is better than the elementary students she would see at her previous job.

“I used to work at an elementary school, and that was rough,” Dayton said. “Kids are so mouthy at that young age.”

Dayton said she enjoys how polite and helpful Allegheny students are — the students are so important to Dayton that she is willing to talk to any of them.

“I try to say hi, even if they’re with somebody else,” Dayton said. “And I am always here for anybody to talk to.”

Overall, even though students flood McKinley’s to get food on a daily basis, the students are a big part of the reason for the smiles workers have when they’re on shift.