Order up! Sharon Schroeder provides service with a smile at Tabor College’s snack bar

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN KINDRA GOERZEN
Sharon Schroeder sees her job of managing the Tabor College snack bar as more than flipping hamburgers and serving fountain drinks.

It’s all about the customers.

“I’m a people person, I guess you could say,” Schroeder said.

Working in the student center-the hub of student energy-is a perfect fit for Schroeder, who easily handles preparing food while also taking orders and conversing with students.

“It has the feeling of a cross between Lee’s Drive-in and the old Dairy-Ette (former Hillsboro hangouts), only without the ice cream,” she said about the snack-bar atmosphere.

Schroeder has been part of the college’s cafeteria staff for 12 years, but for the past 21/2 years has worked specifically at the snack bar.

There, Schroeder interacts with a steady stream of students, faculty and staff. Typically, her daily hours are 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The busiest time is lunch.

“Usually, I have help during the lunch period because it’s so busy,” she said. “I don’t have a very big fryer, so I just work fast. I have a pretty good memory for orders but if it gets really busy I’ll write it down.”

Assisting Schroeder are six to seven students who rotate shifts during day and evening hours.

Since the snack bar is an extension of the cafeteria through Pioneer Foods Catering, Schroeder often helps in the cafeteria once her noon shift has ended or slowed.

“The cafeteria serves over 400 students at noon,” she said.

Because the snack bar is centrally located in the student center, Schroeder said it has little competition for student business.

“If (students) don’t like the food in the cafeteria, they’ll come over here to the snack bar,” Schroeder said. “They always know they can get a good old-fashioned hamburger and fries fast and cheap.”

Offering everything from a chicken-strip meal for $3.50 and breakfast bagels, served all day with either sausage or bacon, eggs and cheese for $1.50, the snack bar has something for almost everyone.

“The chicken-strip meal is with three chicken strips, french fries or onion rings and a piece of Texas toast,” she said. “That’s a real popular thing among the students.”

Schroeder said they go through 11/2 loaves of Texas toast bread on an average day.

TC rolls-homemade cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting-also are a favorite when paired with a cup of mild-blend Starbucks coffee.

“People don’t have to go to Wichita for Starbucks,” she said. “We have it right here.”

On an average day, Schroeder reports serving an average of 10 to 15 college faculty, depending on the weather.

“If it’s a snowy or rainy day outside, then they come over here,” she said.

Citing offers such as 25 cents off on 24-ounce fountain drinks during the daily happy hour, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., Schroeder said, “It’s not a real expensive place to eat or grab a drink.”

In the future, Schroeder and the management of the snack bar and cafeteria hope to expand their business to draw in members of the community.

“We get a few stragglers from the community, but we would like to see more,” Schroeder said.

While the snack-bar management will rely on word-of-mouth promotion to the public, they also plan to mail the menu to local businesses to solicit customers.

Schroeder said the public can phone in their orders. With a five- to seven-minute turnaround, an order can be prepared by the time the customer comes to pick it up.

Over the past 21/2 years, Schroeder has seen the snack-bar menu grow as business has grown.

Schroeder credited most of the improvements to her supervisor, Nadine Prouty.

More food items, such as the Philly Steak Sandwich, quesadillas and hot dogs, have been added to the menu, helping to draw a larger lunch crowd.

Student suggestions have helped identify menu items to add.

“Sometimes kids will ask, ‘Will you get this?'” she said. “I’ll go to my boss and ask if we can order it, if it would be a good thing to serve, and then they take it from there.”

Schroeder attributes these changes and improvements to having good communication with the students.

“I wish I could call everyone by name, but I can’t,” Schroeder said. “It’s either I know the first name or the last.”

This doesn’t stop Schroeder from welcoming her customers or those passing by with a bright smile and a cheerful hello.

“Students come talk to me about problems they have in school,” she said. “Sometimes, we pray for each other.

“I try to encourage the kids when they’re down with a class, and they encourage me back. It’s a two-way street.”

The snack bar is open 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday as well as during basketball games.

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