The College of William and Mary’s Dining Services will offer new meal plan options at Alan B. Miller Hall’s Boehly Cafe and at the Marketplace beginning next semester. These changes reflect student demand and aim to increase the number of meal plans purchased by students.
The Boehly Cafe will offer a meal plan option on a trial basis. The Boehly Cafe’s meal plan option will resemble that of the Dodge Room, consisting of salads or sandwiches, a drink and sides.
“During this trial period of the spring semester, we will be evaluating the [Boehly Cafe] program and we will need to see if it is able to continue on a permanent basis based on the participation, as well as some other important factors including the impact to the operating hours, staffing, service standards, cleanliness and seating,” Director of Dining Services Matt Moss said in an e-mail to Student Assembly Undersecretary for Dining Services Salil Singhal ’12.
Singhal serves as the student liaison for Aramark, the College’s food provider.
“[Having a meal plan at Miller] was my idea. I talked to Matt Moss about it. I was told the probability of that happening was very low,” Singhal said. “When they were putting in the cafe, there was absolutely no discussion of a meal plan. It was supposed to be a cafe atmosphere. They did not see a meal plan fitting into that atmosphere.”
In response, Matthew Thames ’10 started a Facebook group called “Meals at Miller” to garner student support. Over 300 members joined within three weeks. The group encouraged students to send e-mails in support of creating a meal plan option to Moss.
According to Singhal, Moss received over 100 e-mails from students, 70 of which arrived during a two-day period. Singhal said that after The Flat Hat’s Nov. 17 article on the issue, Moss received even more student response supporting the move.
“Student support is the only reason there is a meal plan in Miller Hall,” Singhal said. “It really shows that dining services is willing to work with students. A few months ago they were against [a meal plan option at Boehly Cafe] and [were] really adamant about that, and student support really changed that.”
Dining Services is also making changes to the Marketplace to reflect student demand.
“As of now, there will be a Chinese food option placed in the Marketplace, [but we are] waiting for 100 percent confirmation,” Singhal said. “It will have a rotating option for meal plan.”
It will replace HomeZone, which has statistically had the lowest performance. Dining Services decided Chinese food is a comparable replacement for stir fry, one of the most popular items at the station. Overstuffed sandwiches, another high-demand food at Homezone, will likely be moved to Montague’s Deli.
The sushi bar will also become a meal plan option because of student support.
According to Singhal, adding a meal plan option to Boehly Cafe, an upscale dining facility, would be at a loss to Dining Services because a single meal is cheaper than the cost of the same amount of food if sold individually. However, they hope that an increase in meal plan purchases will cover the difference.
“Students have told us that they would be basing their decision on continuing on the meal plan program solely based on availability to use Miller Hall as an option,” Moss said. “We would like to see not only continued participation, but we need to see that students that have not been on the program buy in so that we do not affect other locations on campus.”
Singhal said that after having a record high number of students registered for meal plans last spring, the College experienced a decrease this year. While this has not caused significant cost-cutting changes, it did factor into the decision to close the Sadler Center an hour earlier on weekdays.
“If the trend continues, it could be devastating to the College,” Singhal said. “Meal plans are the backbone of Dining Services.”
To increase meal plan registrations and to ensure that students register early, Dining Services is offering $25 in Flex Points to students who purchase a meal plan now for the spring. The points can be used during either semester.
Dining Services has also been modifying the Student Exchange to address the decrease in traffic. Changes include removing an under-performing coffee machine, introducing new gourmet options from a third-party vendor, and providing more frozen options. A fountain drink station will be introduced and, in reflection of a campus-wide effort to increase sustainability, some of the bottled beverages will be removed. The hours of operation will also be extended on weekends.