Luther senior researches the reasons behind turnover of food service workers

August 6, 2018

Is there more to cafeteria and food services workers quitting than just not wanting to work in the food industry for a living? Jacob Wessels, Luther College senior of Dubuque, Iowa, is examining the reasons behind turnover of food service workers for his summer research project and will use the information he gathers to help the college’s cafeteria student work retention rates.

Wessels, the son of Gary and Linda Wessels of Dubuque, is a 2015 graduate of Dubuque Senior High School. He is majoring in psychology at Luther, with a minor in mathematics.

“Turnover presents a major problem for businesses. Organizations must invest time and resources into the training of employees and ensure the employee matches the workplace culture established by the organization. When employees quit, organizations must reinvest this time and effort into finding a replacement for the leaving employee. This time spent reinvesting in new employees can present a challenge for the employees currently working for the organization as well. When multiple employees leave at once, the amount of work and subsequent stress for other employees increases until new employees are hired and trained. Thus, it is important for turnover research to exist in order to help organizations invest in the current employees by improving in areas where turnover intentions may arise,” said Wessels.

Wessels is working with Justin Sprung, Luther assistant professor of psychology, on his project “Analysis of Turnover Intentions Among Food Service Employees.”

Wessels is examining why food service employees leave their jobs. He hopes to use the data he collects to assess student workers in Luther’s cafeteria this fall to improve retention rates. He said this research has taught him about considering the context and culture of the group before developing a theory about human behavior. He’d like to continue this type of psychological research once he graduates.

Wessels and Sprung’s collaboration is one of 30 summer student-faculty research projects funded through Luther’s College Scholars Program and Dean’s Office. The Student-Faculty Summer Research projects provide students an opportunity to research topics of interest alongside Luther faculty. This program is one of a wide selection of experiential learning opportunities at Luther intended to deepen the learning process and that are part of Luther’s academic core.

A national liberal arts college with an enrollment of 2,050, Luther offers an academic curriculum that leads to the Bachelor of Arts degree in more than 60 majors and pre-professional programs. For more information about Luther visit the college’s website: