Dining revamps policy on swipes

Though the Class of 2013 will never have the experience of swiping for sushi at the Law School dining hall, Yale Dining is hoping to take an “Uncommon” approach to dealing with budget constraints.

Starting this semester, students will no longer be able to use dining swipes and points at Yorkside Pizza & Restaurant, Wall Street Pizza and the Law School dining hall, Yale Dining Executive Director Rafi Taherian wrote in an e-mail to meal plan holders earlier this summer. In interviews, Yale Dining representatives said these new restrictions and the opening of Uncommon — a “healthy, natural and sustainable” convenience store located outside Commons dining hall — were designed to reduce expenses and save jobs.

Budgetary concerns have led Yale Dining Services to bar undergraduates from transferring their meal plan swipes to the Law School dining hall.
Nicholas Bayless
Budgetary concerns have led Yale Dining Services to bar undergraduates from transferring their meal plan swipes to the Law School dining hall.

Under the previous system, the dining points and meal transfer programs required Yale Dining to pay each participating outside establishment every time a student ate there. It cost $7 above the expenses incurred to prepare food within the Yale Dining facilities, for instance, when an undergraduate ate at the independently operated Law School dining hall.

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 last week. “What are we going to do, close a college? Close Commons?”

After University President Richard Levin asked each University department to cut its budget by 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.

The decision comes at a difficult time for restaurant owners.

Yorkside owner Tony Koutroumanis said that he anticipates a drop in business this fall as students are not allowed to use dining points at his restaurant.

“The reality now, the kids are obligated to spend the money inside,” he said. “It’s definitely going to hurt us.”

Likewise, the Law School also anticipates a significant drop in traffic, Yale Law School spokeswoman Jan Conroy said, because undergraduates made up a significant amount of the Law School dining hall’s lunchtime business. To prepare for this, she said, the Law School eliminated two positions, though she added that administrators are working with Yale Dining to find the two employees jobs in an Yale Dining-operated dining hall.

With Uncommon, which Phillips said will open 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.

The five students interviewed expressed disappointment that the outside eating options would no longer be available, though most said they hoped Uncommon would become a viable alternative.

But for Corey Rapala ’12 and Sean Beckett ’12, the $7 Law School spending cap did not buy them enough food for a full meal.

“I’m a buffet man,” Beckett said. “Transferring is for people that don’t eat as much.”

For Morse College students, currently housed in Swing Space while the college undergoes renovation, the restrictions on dining points hit harder. Students housed in Swing Space are given an extra $75 in dining points each semester to compensate for the lack of a residential college dining hall.

“In past years [during the renovations for] Calhoun and JE they got [points] so they could eat at dinner places,” Caroline Nash ’11, a swing space resident, said. “It is definitely going to make it a lot more difficult for students in Swing Space.”

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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