For years, the Nugget Grill & Pub has been the social hub for upper-campus.
Behind the counter is a whole community of students and full-time workers that prepare hundreds of orders daily. Melissa Devan, director of the 49er Shops dining services, said there are at least 15 people working in the Nugget at any given time.
Because most of the staff are students, staff changes happen frequently.
“Of course there’s a lot of turnover because [students] graduate and they move on,” said cook Niko Bustamante, a CSULB class of 2015 alumnus.
However, there are full-time employees that work in the kitchen, like Bustamante who just got promoted to night-time supervisor about a month ago. Devan said there aren’t many full-time employees outside of a handful of cooks.
The kitchen bustles during the busy hours of the day, between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., as cooks maneuver past each other in the hot and cramped kitchen. Between the grill and the prep station there is barely enough room for employees to squeeze through.
“In the morning it’s busy,” Bustamante said. “At night it turns into more of a bar atmosphere.”
Though the Nugget sells a variety of alcoholic beverages, Devan said that they rarely come into contact with disruptive and heavily intoxicated people.
“We never deal with drunkenness, we just don’t,” Devan said. “Our students are pretty responsible.”
Bustamante has seen lots of changes in the menu in the six years that he has worked at the Nugget. Devan said they like to try new things to fit the needs of every student.
“We try to be all things to all people,” Devan said. “[We want to] meet the vegetarian and the vegans’ expectations, we have to meet the meat-eaters’ expectations.”
Some changes to the menu work for the better, like the new Beyond Meat burger, but not everybody likes change. Students were outraged when tater tots were removed from the menu for the first few weeks of the fall semester.
“We did that as a healthy alternative because we had complaints, so we actually did taste testing and everybody loved the new potato and so we swapped them out,” Devan said. “Who knew tater tots would cause such an uproar?”
Devan said the complaints were well-heard and tater tots were put back on the menu for students to enjoy.
When making changes to the menu, the Nugget practices “menu engineering” to look at what is ordered the most and what costs the most to make. Devan said with every change they make to their menu, they want to make sure there’s balance and value for students.
“We do it based on feedback from the kids,” she said. “We can’t do everything, but we do try to implement the feedback that we get from our students if we can.”
Devan said their first priority is to take care of the students because she knows that students tend to struggle financially. The Nugget is an independent business, so Devan said they pay more for their food than the international brands in the University Student Union.
There are ideas that Devan and her staff are working on for the future, like the possibility of adding Beyond Meat tacos, but want to make sure they continue to maintain the same values and priorities.
“The key things that we focus on [are] speed of service, customer service, presentation of the food, the quality of the food, and taking care of my people,” Devan said. “If you do all of those things, you can be successful.”