Dining took ‘Uncommon’ approach to cut costs

The Class of 2013 may never know what it’s like to use a meal swipe at the Yale Law School dining hall, but due to cost-cutting measures taken by Yale Dining, they will know “Uncommon.”

In an e-mail to meal plan holders earlier this summer, Yale Dining Executive Director Rafi Taherian announced that students would no longer be able to use dining swipes and points at Yorkside Pizza, Wall Street Pizza and the Law School dining hall. In interviews, Yale Dining representatives said the opening of Uncommon – a “healthy natural and sustainable” convenience store located outside Commons dining hall – was part of a measure designed to reduce expenses and save jobs.

The Flex points and meal transfer programs required Yale Dining to pay each participating, outside establishment every time a student had a meal there. It cost seven dollars, for instance, when an undergraduate ate at the independently operated Law School dining hall.

But, in reality, it cost more than that. Yale Dining still assumed meal plan holders would eat every meal in a dining hall, and paid accordingly for food and supplies. Taherian said Yale Dining lost about $500,000 annually on transactions at the Law School, Yorkside and Wall Street Pizza.

“Options for cost cutting were not attractive,” Taherian said in an interview. “What are we going to do, close a college? Close Commons?”

After University President Richard Levin asked each University department to cut budgets 7.5 percent, Yale Dining turned to the meal transfer program as a potential avenue for savings. Yale Dining explored other options for cutting costs, but faced difficulties cutting staff because most of its staff is unionized under Local 35 of UNITE-HERE.

“By keeping swipes in Yale Dining operated facilities, Dining Services won’t be transferring out the board plan revenue which is desperately needed to support quality dining and service standards.” Director of Residential Dining Regenia Phillips said in an e-mail message.

With Uncommon, which opens during the second week of September, Yale Dining hopes to replicate the “grab and go” style of dining students found at the Law School. The store, open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., will offer sushi, wraps and healthier versions of traditional snack foods.

Uncommon will be located in a former manager’s office near the computer cluster outside of Commons dining hall, and will be staffed by Commons employees.

This year, dining points will be accepted at Uncommon and six other Yale Dining-operated facilities: Durfee’s, the Divinity Refectory, the Lobby at Kline Biology Tower, Donaldson Commons at the School of Management, Marigolds at the Yale School of Medicine, Thain Family Café and the Blue Dog Café at the McDougal Center in the Hall of Graduate Studies.

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