Getting to know...Eric Lake
For almost 30 years, the past four at Wofford, Eric Lake has managed food service on a college campus. His official title is location manager for Zach’s Food Court, but to most of the students, he’s simply Mr. E or Mr. Eric.
“I won’t let them call me Mr. Lake,” he says. “I want it to be informal. I have an open door policy where if the students have any kinds of problems with our food service they are more than welcome to contact me. Our food service here at Wofford is about the best I’ve ever seen.”
There is a delicatessen, where Lake says 200-300 pounds of turkey are used a day for sandwiches. There is a grill, where 400 hamburgers are cranked out on the first lunch shift alone. And there is a Chick-Fil-A station where students ask for 150-200 sandwiches a day. And that’s not even including the coffee shop or the smoothie bar. Clearly, variety is not an issue for the students.
“We offer vegetarian food, sushi, just about anything the students ask for,” says Lake. “If we don’t have it, I do everything I can to get it if feasible. Our main concern is to make this a home away from home.”
When Lake says “we” and “our,” he is referring to the 39 employees who work with him at Zach’s.
“We have 39 employees at Zach’s,” he says. “We’re like one big family. A lot of them have been here 10, 15 or even 20 years.”
Typically, Lake and Co. feed between 380 and 400 students a day. He says Wofford has a 92 percent participation rate in its food service, a very high number. That requires a lot of time on campus, considering the other events he has to staff during the school year, such as late night football practices, weekend sporting events and even tailgate parties at football games.
“We’re all huge Wofford fans, and that means all sports,” says Lake. “We try to support all the sports, too, with schedules and stuff we put on the tables. You’ll see our employees out there supporting our teams in the Spartanburg community.”
It’s no mystery why Mr. E is so popular among students. He cares about them, and they care about him and his staff.
“I love what I do,” he says. “We treat the students as if they were our own children. Most of us who work here have children their age. We have a lot of great young men and women here and they’re going to be a great part of our society. Helping them get the food they want makes me happy.”