By CHASE GORSKI
Students have the conversation all the time deciding where they should eat on campus that day.
The deciding factor? How many Dining Dollars do they have left.
It is a common occurrence that students have to stop eating at the variety of campus dining locations like Chick-fil-A, Hungry Minds and Auntie Anne’s because they have run out of the ever-valuable Dining Dollars.
Those concerns have been heard by Salisbury University’s Dining Services and look to be solved next fall with the implementation of a brand new set of meal plans.
“My job is to make sure that students get all the value out of their meal plans that they can,” Director of Dining Services Owen Rosten said. “Our student workforce tells us what students want and our job is to be responsive to that.”
According to Rosten the average meal plan will have a 40 percent increase in Dining Dollars.
These meal plans will also tackle another big problem that students have faced with dining, the weekly meal setup that SU has used.
The old meal plan options that students could select from included an ‘Everything Plan’ with unlimited meals and $250 Dining Dollars, the ’15 Plus Plan’ with 15 meals per week plus $275, a ’10 Meal Plan’ with 10 meals per week and $200 Dining Dollars as well as three other options.
With these plans, students were limited to a specific weekly number of meals. This led to students losing meals if they did not use the allotted amount for the weekly, and also students not being allowed into Commons if they had already accumulated their weekly meals.
The new system, set to begin this upcoming fall of 2018, will completely do away with a week-by-week meal plan. Instead students will be given options of bulk meal plans varying in size, each with an increase in Dining Dollars.
“Most campuses contract out and those operations make their money on [students] not using their meals, we’re not about that we’re about taking care of our students,” Rosten said. “This way our students will get 100 percent utilization out of their meal plans.”
In the fall SU Dining Services will offer five meal plan options.
A. The Everything Plan – unlimited trips to Commons plus $250 Dining Dollars each semester ($2,500/semester).
B. 200 Meals Plus – 200 total trips to Commons plus $500 Dining Dollars each semester ($2,400/semester).
C. 125 Meals Plus – 125 total trips to Commons plus $350 Dining Dollars each semester ($1,675/semester).
D. 75 Meals Plus – 75 total trips to Commons plus $300 Dining Dollars each semester ($1,100/semester).
E. 45 Meals Plus – 45 total trips to Commons plus $100 Dining Dollars each semester ($600/semester).
Student feedback was one of the driving factors that motivated Rosten and SU’s Dining Services to make these changes. Along with student workers and responses they have received through surveys, focus groups and social media they were able to address two major concerns students had.
“Students look out for students, no student wants to be a part of something they’re not proud of so it it’s helped us make sure to keep our eye out,” Rosten said. “I get older every year but our students are the same age, they’re more expert in what they want then I’ll ever be so that’s why I’ve gotta keep my ear to the students.”
Another caveat that Rosten hopes will encourage students to continue getting meal plans is centered around Dining Dollars. As long as a student is enrolled and signed up for a meal plan the following semester, their leftover Dining Dollars can ‘roll-over.’
That means there will be no more need for students to rapidly spend those last Dining Dollars within the finals weeks of the semester. So long as they have registered for a meal plan the next semester, that remaining amount will stay with their plan.
The increase in quality and efficiency from SU Dining Services has been attributed to similar progress from the university on campus with new colleges, new buildings and new fields. Rosten wants to dining options on campus to reflect the quality of the university.
“We’re renovating [Henson cafe], last year it was like a custodial closet with a gate, nothing that we were proud of,” Rosten said. “Now with the high-performance computer lab there, it makes sense that we renovated our space to be consistent with the quality of that HPCL.”
Along with the new Henson cafe, which is set to open on Monday Feb. 19, there are other ways that Rosten wants to keep students interested in dining. SU plans to redo the bistro area within Commons, as well as looking into better ways to market other dining locations like Auntie Anne’s.
With such a large increase in Dining Dollars, SU wants to ensure that students have plenty of options to use those dollars. Rosten and his team have brainstormed various marketing strategies for students including different incentives and looking into the Auntie Anne’s Loyalty Program.
Students will have the opportunity to start using these new meal plans come next semester. One thing is certain, they can expect those lines at Chick-fil-A to stay long throughout the entire semester.
Featured photo: Guerrieri Student Union where SU Commons is located. Hannah Wichrowski photo.