Meal plan differences exist between Peay and Tech

Tech prides itself on being perennially named a “Best Value” school in the south. However, an in depth look at Chartwells’ services in Tennessee suggests this might not necessarily be true.Chartwells provides dining services for three Ohio Valley Universities: Southeast Missouri State, Austin Peay and Tech. Despite being under similar corporate management, these universities differ in prices for meal plans and overall services offered to students on campus.

Both Austin Peay and Tech offer 19- and 10-meals-per-week options as well as block meal plans to suit students’ needs. However, a Tech student will pay $1,591 for 19 meals a week (excluding dining dollars), while a student at Austin Peay on the same plan pays only $1,145. This difference of $446 is comparable to $413 extra dollars Tech students pay for 10-meals a week in comparison to Austin Peay students.

Austin Peay’s 14-meal per week plan shows greater differences, charging students $995. Tech students are charged $1,504 for the 15-meal per week option- $509 for one more meal per week.

A student at APSU also enjoys a greater variety of dining options on campus in addition to extensive hours of operation. While The Perch in New Hall North serves until 11 p.m. five nights per week, Austin’s at APSU is open until midnight every night, even on weekends.

But after driving home the facts and comparisons, what becomes the next step for Tech students who use Chartwells’ services?

“As a company, we are really driven hard by what a customer wants,” Sam Holm, director of Dining Services, said. “It all comes back to where the university wants to take it.”

For the 2010-2011 academic year, Chartwells’ proposed a 6.65 percent budget increase based on food and labor costs, inflation, as well as current and projected sales. However, only a 3.2 percent increase was allowed by Tech.

Longer hours were taken out of the equation because a majority of projected increases come from labor costs. For every one-hour extension to a dining location’s hours, an additional $20,000 a year is calculated into the budget for labor costs. This $20,000 is for one hour a day at one location for one year.

Applying this cost at a few hours at a time to numerous locations around campus makes for extremely expensive operations. The extra costs for such additions would come from increases in individual food cost as well as the price of meal plans.

“The long hours weren’t added because the University came back to us and said we don’t feel like the kids want an increase on their meal plans,” Holm said. “It’s the University that has the final say on if they want to put something into action.”

However, what students may not realize is the more meal plans that are purchased, even at a higher price, the more money that becomes available to give back to Tech to use for dining services.

“Overall, I’m not impressed with Tech’s dining service,” freshman Ian Swagerty said. “If paying a little more for my meal plan gives us better hours and healthier food options, I’m all for it.”

Still, more complaints are heard by the student body than actions to make Tech’s dining services a more successful branch of campus life. As always, students are encouraged to use the outlets made available by Chartwells to provide comments and feedback.

Comment cards are continually available in the RUC Marketplace cafeteria, and Chartwells has a Facebook page where students can post comments and take part in discussions on a message board.