Adding the Tribe Square restaurants to the meal plan was perhaps the best thing Sodexo USA has done as the College of William and Mary’s dining services provider. The move benefitted both students and businesses through greater variety and increased sales; in the coming year, Sodexo and the College administration should look to add more restaurants to the meal plan, giving students more places to spend their Dining Dollars.
Students often feel extremely limited by Dining Dollars, with Dominos and Qdoba serving as the only real “off-campus” options. Ask around campus now, and many students will tell you they are all out of Dining Dollars — despite having more at their disposal than they did last year. With the Student Exchange’s currently limited offerings, students appreciate the additional restaurants on the meal plan and visit them regularly. Pita Pit, Mooyah and The Crust all saw increased revenues this semester after being added to the meal plan as a Dining Dollars option.
And yet, there are still many places that Sodexo could add. Imagine if students could buy a Shorti at Wawa using Dining Dollars. Or how about a meal in Colonial Williamsburg? The Cheese Shop, Retro’s, Aromas and the Starbucks in Barnes and Noble are just a few popular venues for studying and socializing which students would like to frequent more often. Lagging tourism could be hurting some of these businesses, and including them on the meal plan could help them attract more customers and increase revenues. After seeing the effect of receiving Dining Dollars on Tribe Square establishments, other businesses should jump at the opportunity to include this method of payment.
If Sodexo does not approach any other restaurants — and this may be very likely — we would encourage local restaurants to take the first step. Sodexo may not listen at first, but if enough owners express interest, joined with students demanding more options, Sodexo may relent. The Tribe Square restaurants took that first step, raising their qualms with the required on-campus resident meal plan last year and opening the Dining Dollars conversation with Sodexo.
But this effort shouldn’t be left in Sodexo’s and the establishments’ hands alone. The College administration should also make every effort to improve students’ Dining Dollars options, beginning with replacing the empty venue in Tribe Square, formerly occupied by Subway, and ensuring that the new vendor is also included on the meal plan.
Now, with the food truck’s arrival and Cosi’s impending opening next semester, students will have more ways than ever to spend their Dining Dollars. That said, students want to support local businesses and, as an integral part of the community, the College should seek mutually beneficial relationships with these businesses as well.