May 16, 2007
By Tom Bosco
Ohio University Dining Services announced today it will restructure the Dining Dollars program for next year. Beginning September 2007, Dining Dollars will become an introductory program during fall quarter for incoming freshman, who will receive $50 of retail-value credit to use in various Ohio University venues.
"The Dining Dollars program did what it was designed to do, and that was get students interested in the new Baker University Center," said Bill Decatur, vice president for finance. "In fact, it did the job too well."
Dining Dollars was introduced in January with the opening of Baker to give students enrolled in most meal plans additional flexibility and an opportunity to experience the new facility. Students who purchase a board plan currently are able to use $100 worth of Dining Dollars to purchase food at Baker's West 82 food court, Latitude 39 restaurant, the Front Room and other venues.
The venues will be the same next year, but the amount will drop to $50.
The program and Baker Center were so successful that in March, Dining Dollars use was restricted during the peak lunch hours at West 82 to help even out the traffic over the day and ensure that service was prompt during the lunch rush.
"We learned very quickly winter quarter that the demand exceeded the food court's capacity to deal with everyone who wanted to eat there," Decatur said.
The shift in hours also has helped the Dining Dollars program achieve what was intended.
"The food court was not designed to be a dining hall facility," said Emily Howard, marketing manager for Auxiliary Services. Rather, it is meant to be a central gathering and dining venue for the whole university community. "We simply wanted students to get a taste of the new food court."
Soon after the program was launched, Dining Services began evaluating ways to serve its purpose, address volume and meet financial goals. The Dining Services Development Committee, a group of students and other dining-hall patrons, has provided feedback throughout the process.
"Baker University Center and its food venues have been open for just over four months," Howard said. "We're still fine-tuning all of our programs, and we will continue to evaluate how we are serving our customers."
Decatur said providing the program for incoming freshmen lets them sample other options besides the dining halls and familiarize themselves with venues on campus that are not covered by the meal plans.
"This will get freshmen to the vital center of campus and give them a broader first-quarter experience," he said.
Under the introductory program, Dining Dollars will be accepted at Baker University Center's food venues (the Front Room, West 82 and Latitude 39, excluding alcohol sales); Boyd, Bromley, Jefferson, Nelson and Shively dining halls; and the Grab'n'Go locations in Boyd, Shively and Nelson.
Changes to Dining Dollars will not affect Bobcat Cash, a separate program in which users pay money to an account, similar to a pre-paid debit card that can be used at a variety of on-campus locations.
Howard said Dining Services has been refining its offerings across campus. She noted that many of the amenities at West 82 food court are available in the dining halls, including a wrap bar at Jefferson, a burger bar and Mexican food bar at Nelson and panini, wraps and sushi at the Boyd Grab'n'Go.