Director of Dining Services Helmut Mayer has been a part of the Knox community for seven years, but will be retiring from his position at the college on Aug. 31. As the school year comes to a close, Mayer often thinks about how his absence will affect the future of Dining Services at Knox College.
“I’m thinking about my food employees, what’s going to happen to them. I’m thinking about the students, and how the change will affect their choices,” Mayer said.
When he announced his retirement, the college debated between hiring a new Dining Services director or moving toward a food management company to handle food services, considering it a potentially effective way to reduce stress for Dining Services and gain money to remodel the dining area.
Like many, Mayer is wary of moving to a management company, pointing out a responsibility to the students first.
“The moment you privatize anything, whichever company it is, the company needs to make a profit,” he said. “For Knox to get a share of the money, in order for a company to get a share of the money, something has to give somewhere. And that is either by what the employees get paid, the food that is offered or the costs of the food.”
Thinking over his time at Knox, Mayer recommended bridging the gap between various groups on campus, such as Student Services and Dining Services, as well as increasing transparency. By focusing on these changes at Knox, he thinks we could create a more open and well-supported community.
While Mayer is concerned for the future of Dining Services at Knox, he is also looking forward to his own future.
“Get out of Galesburg sometime late this year to move to Arizona and attempt to fit into an experimental city in Arizona,” he said of his plans after Knox.
While he does have a few back-ups, which could take him to a new restaurant in California, or even back home to Austria, Arizona is his preferred plan.
Mayer will miss the students at Knox the most.
“I am here for the students. They are the best customers you can have,” he said.
He said that he greatly enjoyed being able to interact with the students, instead of just being stuck behind a desk. The fact that he could be in the cafeteria with students, receiving feedback and working with them to improve their dining experience was one of the major reasons why Mayer chose to work for the college.
Currently, the college is planning to have a management company take over Dining Services for the next year on an interim basis. From there, they will determine whether or not to continue utilizing a company or hire a new Dining Services Director.
Two of the companies that the college is considering will be on campus next week to field questions from students and other members of the community. Specific details regarding the forums are forthcoming, but they will likely be held on Monday and Wednesday and will each go from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.