Grove ends ‘Dining Dollar’ trial run

    The partnership between the A.S. Council and Housing and Dining Services to provide “Dining Dollar” access at Grove Caffe has come to an end, both parties said.

    In the spring of last year, the two groups decided to bring the service to the cafe as part of an experiment that allowed non-Housing and Dining Service facilities to process the type of currency created by the department. After talks between former A.S. Commissioner of Enterprise Operations Jeremy Cogan and Director of Housing and Dining Services Mark Cunningham, both sides decided to institute the program on a trial basis, with the agreement set to expire at the end of the 2003-04 academic year.

    Now, the current A.S. Council and A.S. Commissioner of Enterprise Operations Angela Fornero must assess the success of the program and decide whether the agreement should be renewed. Among the items under consideration is the effect of the program on the employees of Grove Caffe.

    Grove Caffe manager Ryan Bellshaw said he was concerned employees had to work harder during the trial period without any added benefit.

    “[Accepting meal points] did bring in a lot of money but at the same time it doesn’t do much for the employees,” he said, explaining that while many cash customers left loose change for the employees, customers paying with meal points rarely left a tip.

    Cogan, Fornero and Bellshaw said they have fears that the increased workload could hurt employee morale.

    Fornero is addressing the problem and said the program will only be implemented if “it benefits the morale of the Grove [employees].”

    “Even if it would mean more revenue for us, we want employees to be happy,” Fornero said.

    The new agreement will also have to address the costs incurred by Housing and Dining Services, according to Cunningham.

    Although the trial program was partially subsidized by the department, Cunningham said he will be unable to continue absorbing the incurred costs. Though the problems need to be addressed, Cunningham said he welcomes discussions with the A.S. Council.

    “I have no problem reopening discussions on this as a concept. … It’s all part of the journey of negotiating a deal that works for my residents, the Grove and my operation,” he said.

    During the trial, customers seemed to respond positively to the program, despite higher prices for those paying with meal points, Cogan said.

    Bellshaw said he was surprised by the increase in the number of first- and second-year students who frequented Grove Caffe when meal points were accepted. Many of the cafe’s established customers are older students, teaching assistants and professors, but the acceptance of meal points appealed to students living on campus, according to Bellshaw.

    “We weren’t quite ready for it, because we were a small coffee shop with a large influx [of customers],” he said.

    Eleanor Roosevelt College sophomore Eli Tirosh said she began to patronize Grove Caffe once she discovered it accepted meal points.

    “Now that they’re not accepting dining dollars, I’m not really going to come here anymore,” Tirosh said.

    According to Cogan, the A.S. Council, which is partially responsible for running Grove Caffe, is losing customers to private businesses like the Art of Espresso cart and needs to continue expanding its services to compete.

    “Associated Students absolutely needs to innovate the enterprises or we’re going to lose them,” he said.

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