The Association of American Colleges and Universities touts, and higher education industry research supports, the benefits of high-impact educational practices for college students. But there is an incredible learning opportunity on campus that many Virginia Tech students are overlooking — employment with Virginia Tech Dining Services.

Dining Services at Virginia Tech is a successful $70 million enterprise, with its most-recent recognition as number one on the Niche for Best College Food 2019. With 24/7 operations, more than 17 hours daily of food service to customers, and 7.5 million transactions per year, real-world skills are being taught to and honed by more than a thousand student employees annually. 

“We serve more than 45,000 customers per day in 47 dining venues across 11 different geographic locations, as well as two food trucks,” said Ted Faulkner, director of Virginia Tech Dining Services. “What we provide is far greater than part-time employment and a hot meal. We offer student employees the opportunity to learn about time management and customer service, to gain leadership and supervisory experience, to negotiate effectively, resolve conflict, to understand risk management, cash handling, and so much more.”

Given Dining Services' status as the number one Chick-fil-A, Qdoba, Bruegger’s Bagel, Freshens, and Au Bon Pain for college markets in the country, it’s fair to say that student employees are working in an environment where quality matters, where goals are set and records are broken, and where continuous improvement is the expectation.

High-impact educational practices and experiential learning include first-year experiences, undergraduate research, learning communities, service-learning opportunities, internships, capstone projects, and more.

“Employment is an incredible student learning opportunity. The student workforce not only plays a critical role in subsiding the costs of higher education, but students are gaining valuable skills and competencies that employees seek in college graduates,” said Frank Shushok, senior associate vice president for Student Affairs. “Students are ultimately working in a hands-on, real-world learning laboratory.”

And if serving a hot meal to thousands per hour (or one Chick-fil-A shake for every minute of operation) isn’t enough, there’s dining’s Homefield Farm; hydroponic herb gardens; sustainability efforts like reusable to-go containers and waste minimization initiatives; catering services; and commitment to nutrition, food safety, and inclusive food practices.

Dining Serices also operates the Southgate prep facility, where vegetables, fruit, meats, and cheeses are cut, sliced, and diced; where delicious baked goods are prepared; and where the Dunkin Donuts' donuts are made. Southgate is also the warehousing location for the nonperishable goods needed, from dry goods to pallets of firewood to compostable boxes, lids, and cups.

“It’s a privilege to have such an innovative, in-house, and award-wining entity on our campus,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Patty Perillo. “Ted and the Dining Services team are known nationally in the food service and restaurant industry, far beyond just the college and university market. Any student given the opportunity to learn under his remarkable leadership and among his incredibly talented team would quickly see the long-term advantages gained.”

As is normal at the start of each semester, college students are fine-tuning their routines and defining their footpaths across campus. At this same time, dining’s hiring process is in full swing. While it can take a few weeks for the pace and student traffic flow to equalize, Dining Services is committed to quality service. Often avant-garde in their approach, they have led the industry in campus food trucks, mobile app ordering software, and are currently working to implement biometrics to increase the speed of service, gain cost efficiencies, and improve public health.

“Last year, we implemented Tapingo, our mobile app for advance ordering, payment, and food pickup, and we had the highest year-one adoption rate of any college or university in the country,” said Laura Pontier, assistant director of operations development with Dining Services. “We did 600,000 transactions last year and around 5,700 orders per day now.”

Hiring and maintaining a work force of 1,600 students isn’t easy to accomplish. With pay starting at $10 per hour, a free meal during every shift, the convenience of on-campus employment, flexible hours, and the benefits of career skill building and competency attainment that would be beneficial for any future career endeavor, it truly a best-kept campus secret.

If you are or know a student looking for part-time employment, consider working for Virginia Tech’s Dining Services. If you are looking for your next delicious meal, Dining Centers exist across campus in the following locations:


Check out the daily menus and dining hours.

Share this story