Still nobody to work at Weary Wil’s…


Tables at the temporarily closed Weary Wills restaurant are available for students to study at during the day. Collegian photo by CORA HARRIS (She/Her)

Jacob Boyko, News Editor (He/Him)

SDSU’s Hobo Day-themed sports bar, Weary Wil’s, remains closed due in part to a national food service employee shortage—and there’s no clear timeline for reopening.

According to Doug Wermedal, associate vice president of student affairs, staffing restaurants on campus continues to be an uphill battle. 

“We hire six, and then we lose six,” Wermedal said. “We haven’t lost ground, but I don’t think we’ve made progress. If you talk to the employers on campus, it’s the same. It’s the same with student custodial, desk workers and workers in the community.” 

In a previous interview with the Collegian, Heidi Haro, the Aramark general manager for SDSU, said the employment numbers going into the fall semester were much lower than previous years. There are about 260 food service workers with Aramark on campus—down from the usual 400. 

The employee shortage created a dilemma for SDSU and restaurant management company Aramark. Weary Wil’s could remain open with reduced open hours, but by doing so, open hours at another restaurant would have to be reduced to allocate employees to Weary Wil’s. 

The decision SDSU made was to temporarily close Weary Wil’s, move the staff to other restaurants, and keep those restaurants open longer. 

“Due to (customer) traffic, (closing) Weary Wil’s was the obvious choice,” Wermedal said. “It’s better to do your core business really well. We’d rather concentrate on what students say they use the most, which is the Larsons Commons, The Market and the Chick-Fil-A wing.”  

The temporary closing allows for maintenance crews to perform needed upgrades and complex installations without having to work around a kitchen crew. The kitchen is set to get updated fixtures, including a new vent hood, new fryers and an upgraded fire-suppression system.  

Wermedal hopes the restaurant will be open for the spring semester, but there are still some challenges associated with that goal. 

“I think we would have to land 20 to 30 new staff members,” Wermedal said. “Our hope is to progress enough in these labor shortages to open in the spring semester, but none of us have a crystal ball on that.”

The restaurant, which was first introduced in 2010 following an extensive renovation of the Student Union, has been one of the premier get-together spots thanks to its lively atmosphere and staple bar foods including burgers, wings and chislic. 

Today, Weary Wil’s sits in a lonely, almost unrecognizable state. A sign on the door invites students to use the space for studying or reconnecting with friends during the temporary closure. 

Sophomore Kate Thomasen uses the space to study but wishes she could return to the Weary Wil’s she went to during freshman year. 

“I miss Weary Wil’s on the weekends. It’s kind of nice to get together with your friends after a long week,” Thomasen said, adding that she specifically misses the haystack burger and the boneless wings with buffalo sauce.

According to Wermedal, the space may be introduced to pool tables within the next few weeks—whether they stay after the reopening is still to be determined. 

Aramark workers in the restaurants know first-hand the challenges of being understaffed. At Grille Works, students are temporarily building their own burgers and sandwiches—a practice that raises eyebrows as concern mounts about a COVID-19 resurgence and the approaching flu season.

Tyler, an Aramark employee working at Extreme Pita and Panda Express since 2019, said that being understaffed has presented unique challenges to the crews he works with. 

“When we have less people, it makes it harder to manage a ton of customers,” he said. “We’re hoping to have more students join so we can be open for longer next semester.” 

Tyler and his coworkers have had to pick up more hours to keep Extreme Pita running.

The employee shortage is affecting other South Dakota campuses as well, Wermedal said. The University of South Dakota in Vermillion has also had to cut hours for their restaurants. 

“I think everybody kind of understands there isn’t a place that doesn’t have a ‘now hiring’ sign,” Wermedal said. “All the restaurants are hiring all the time. We’re competing for the same staff members just like everybody else.”