Student Commons Dining Options and New Meal Plan System Announced

The student commons will feature six new dining options next year under a newly structured meal plan system that includes flex dollars and dining dollars rather than Jasper dollars and a la carte dollars.

These changes were announced at an informational meeting held Feb. 25 in Dante’s that was attended by students and administration.

External vendors for the student commons include a fully licensed Starbucks, Forte’s Trattoria and Mike’s Arthur Avenue Deli. The commons will also feature a marketplace, smoothie station, noodle bar and Quigley Grill which will all be extensions of Gourmet Dining Services’ current operations on campus.

The Starbucks will serve its food and accept franchise gift cards, which the Starbucks in Thomas Hall does not currently do.

“We wanted to bring a name brand recognition to the commons,” said Brian Conway, assistant general manager of Gourmet Dining Services on campus.

In regards to choosing Mike’s Arthur Avenue Deli as a student commons vendor, Conway said “We wanted to bring a touch of the Bronx and Arthur Avenue to Riverdale.”

Meal swipes cannot be used in the student commons dining locations. Conway said that administration worked with the external vendors to create value meals that would include an entire meal at a reasonable price that students could pay for using their dining dollars.

Some meal plan features are changing right along with the commons.

“The unlimited framework is still there,” Charles Lippolis of the identification card office said of the overall meal plan structure. The additional spending dollars that students add to their basic meal plan will be the only part of the plan that will change.

The overall meal plan price will increase by approximately 5 percent for next year.

A la carte dollars, or ACDs, will be renamed dining dollars and will work as a declining balance that can be used on any campus dining facility.

“The message is that they could be used for food like they are currently,” Lippolis said. The dining dollars will carry over from fall to spring and students who use dining dollars will save state sales tax of 8.875 percent on their purchases.

In the same stroke, Jasper dollars will be expanded so students can use these flex dollars in the campus bookstore, identification card office and student activities office as well as in participating off-campus eateries.

Unlimited Meal swipes, which are used in Locke's Loft, will not be accepted for use in the new student dining facilities in the commons. Photo by James O'Connor.
Unlimited Meal swipes, which are used in Locke’s Loft, will not be accepted for use in the new student dining facilities in the commons. Photo by James O’Connor.

“These will not expire at the end of the spring semester like they currently have been,” Lippolis said. Flex dollars will also operate on a declining balance system.

“If you’re walking around with money and lose the money, it’s gone,” Lippolis said. Flex dollars could serve as a replacement to cash in more places than where Jasper dollars are currently accepted.

Students and their parents can also manage their balance of flex and dining dollars online in the future, with the incentive of saving sales tax on dining dollars and receiving an additional 11.125 percent bonus on dining dollars.

Not all of the particulars for student commons dining or the meal plan change have been decided yet.

Conway said that there will be a student contest held to name the marketplace in the commons, which currently does not have a name.

Administration is working with the campus store to institute a bonus for using flex dollars there and they are considering designing a commuter meal plan that includes built-in savings.

Conway also said that there have been no decisions yet as to which Starbucks will stay open late at night, the one in Thomas Hall or the one in the student commons.

These decisions have been made through a collaborative effort of administration and the input of student government.

“We took a lot of feedback from students, faculty, staff,” Conway said.

Students at the open meeting offered both questions and suggestions for the future. Several students suggested a plan that institutes meal swipes in the student commons and Dante’s to alleviate congestion in Locke’s and drive traffic to the commons.