Grove Caffe will accept dining dollars

    Meal points will be accepted at the Grove Caffe in the coming weeks following A.S. Council approval of a contract with Housing and Dining Services on March 31. The plan is slated to run through the end of the quarter.

    The program marks the first time dining dollars will be accepted at a non-H&DS-operated facility.

    “From our perspective, for the resident students, it basically just gives them another dining choice and additional flexibility within the constraints of our dining program,” H&DS Director Mark Cunningham said.

    Under the program, customers who choose to use meal points will order from a special menu with different pricing. Prices for cash orders will not change.

    “In order to pay for the costs of the service, there had to be a separate pricing scheme for dining dollar customers,” A.S. Commissioner of Enterprise Operations Jeremy Cogan said.

    According to the contract, 38 cents of every dining dollar is used to purchase the actual food product. The remainder is used to cover electricity at dining facilities, pay employees and cover other overhead costs.

    Because non-food costs do not change based upon consumption, one of the hurdles to the implementation of the program was creating a way for H&DS not to lose the non-food proportion of each dining dollar spent at the Grove, according to Cogan. The solution was the dual-pricing plan.

    “The key was finding a program concept to put in place to see if it will work for all parties involved,” Cunningham said.

    H&DS will pay the Grove the approximate equivalent of the cash price for each menu item. The higher dining dollar prices reflect the cost of maintaining Dining Services’ current operations and implementing the dining dollars program at the Grove.

    “We will emphasize to every customer that neither the Grove Cafe nor Housing and Dining is receiving any special revenue,” Cogan said. “It’s no hidden agenda; there’s no secret behind it.”

    The contract requires the Grove to use eggs, dairy products and frozen foods that are no lower than USDA Grade A. Fresh produce must be number-one quality and canned fruits and fruit juices are to be USDA “fancy” and “choice.”

    The A.S. Council approved the contract by consensus after no debate on the council floor.

    The push for dining dollars at the Grove has been in the works since the beginning of the year.

    “I felt that this time around, I demonstrated to Mark Cunningham that A.S. was willing to work with Housing and Dining to come up with a plan that solved all necessary factors in actually rolling it out,” Cogan said.

    Cogan estimates that the infrastructure to accept dining dollars will be in place in one to two weeks. If the program is a success, the increase in business may actually lead to an across-the-board decrease in prices.

    “As I see it personally, we are able to offer our support as a department for this additional choice for our residents and also show our support for our students and student-run programs, while not bringing on a new program that drives room and board rates up or jeopardizes our self-supporting dining program financially,” Cunningham said.

    The contract expires at the end of the quarter to allow H&DS and the A.S. Office of Enterprise Operations to evaluate the success of the program.

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