Default restoration plans too small for some students, too large for others
While most Duke students can choose from a wide variety of dining options, some students struggle to use all of their dining outlets and end up with plenty towards the end of the semester.
Towards the end of the spring semester, sophomore Emily Zhao found herself with 400 more food points than the recommended amount.
“I was on the West Campus freshman food plan, and I think we had about 3,400 points per semester,” Zhao said. “It was definitely a lot more than we needed. Every day I had food points left from my daily allowance, and that sort of thing would add up at the end of it.
Zhao said she bought a lot of Merchants on Points meals in the last few weeks of the semester to try and spend more of her food points.
First year students do not have a choice between meal plans.
“The default meal plan for [first-years] living on the West Campus [was around 3400] restore points, and it turns out to be [nearly] $ 32 a day, ”said sophomore Eric Bing.
For Bing, this meal plan was too small.
“I guess I have a pretty fast metabolism so I had to eat a lot to maintain my weight or try to gain weight,” he said. “I ate four or five meals a day… The biggest drainer of food points for me was eating multiple meals. I had a bad habit at breakfast of adding a lot of extra eggs, which they charge quite a bit for. So breakfast was sometimes around $ 14 or $ 20. It was really heavy. “
However, Bing opts for the smaller eating plan next year. “I feel like food outlets are a bit restrictive in that you can only spend them on food on campus,” he said.
The meal plan system is essential to maintaining food services on campus. According to Robert Coffey, executive director of restaurant services, the plans allow Duke Dining to have a reliable source of income every year.
Coffey explained that Dining uses this income to oversee the operations of more than 50 food vendors on campus, including caterers at the Brodhead Center, national brands like Panda Express and food trucks on Swift Avenue.
“Our business model is to cover our costs… and generate enough revenue to make constant improvements to our service or, like last year, meet sudden and unforeseen needs,” Coffey wrote in an email.
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Coffey noted that despite “a significant drop in income over the past year,” Dining has kept two-thirds of its dining options open to ensure students still have a variety of food choices.
Dining has also faced the challenge of adjusting its operations to emphasize safety and convenience throughout the school year.
“The ‘Duke Dine-Out Mobile Ordering’ program has been extended to all Duke Dining locations on campus,” Coffey wrote. “We added a delivery option and eight pickup points were introduced on campus for a convenient and secure ordering process. Additionally, the Merchants-on-Points program extended delivery hours to greet students, and food trucks were available on campus during the week so students could stay close to their residence.
“And in particular,” Coffey wrote, “last March we paid our suppliers to keep all full-time contract workers until the end of May 2020. We don’t know of any other university that took a such commitment. “