It’s almost halfway through the semester, and for some, dining dollars are dwindling. Eating on campus can be convenient and a good way to network with other students, according to Bill Sallustro, resident district manager for Chartwells, the contracted company Auburn University chose to help run Tiger Dining.
Some students feel their meal plan monopoly money disappears within the first months of the semester. However, a closer look at how Chartwells prices on-campus food and services reveals the margin for profit is approximately .02 percent — minimal, according to Sallustro.
He said in the pricing system there can be hiccups. A couple of people sit at a computer and punch in the price for each item for the specific location on campus, Sallustro said.
Approximately one week ago, the price of a Starbucks Doubleshot Energy espresso drink was $5.44 instead of the usual $3.49. Although this was noticed last week, the price was incorrect since August, according to Glenn Loughridge, director of campus dining.
The error was corrected Monday, Feb. 29.
Sallustro said the Doubleshot drink costs $2.18, but Chartwells sells it for $3.49. He also said for every dollar, Chartwells receives 19.5 cents, which is given to the University to pay for operation costs and utilities to keep dining facilities running and to pay the 300 employees who work for Tiger Dining. If there is anything left after packaging costs, Sallustro said they make profit off the remainder. He said this year Chartwells made approximately $30,000 in profit.
Tiger Dining receives approximately $130,000 in sales Monday–Thursday, according to Sallustro, and Fridays drop to $80,000 with a significant decrease Saturday and Sunday, where sales dip to $20,000 and $30,000–$35,000.
Auburn has the lowest meal plan rate compared to other universities, according to Sallustro. He said approximately 20 percent of students have the on-campus meal plan of $995 with the rest of the population having the off-campus $300 plan.
“The idea of this plan was never to be a plan to [eat] like every single meal because you know that’s impossible, right?” Sallustro said.
Loughridge said a student is paid every summer to conduct the Market Basket Survey, which determines prices for all foods, drinks and services offered on campus.
Sallustro said they go to comparable restaurants in the community similar to the on-campus venue. He said they weigh how much meat and toppings each item has and compile a presentation Loughridge and Sallustro use to decide prices.
Sallustro said a couple of years ago the SGA treasurer at the time conducted the survey and found Au Bon Pain’s portions were better for the value compared to Panera Bread.
According to Loughridge, on-campus restaurants have to keep prices within 5 percent of the off-campus counterpart. Some students see high prices of items in an on-campus convenience store and compare them with gas station prices on the same product.
However, Sallustro explained the gas station’s prices can be less because they have other products such as gas, cigarettes or alcohol to offset the cheaper price.
“We sell food and the services, and that’s all we have,” Sallustro said. “We’re a little bit more restricted on those prices.”
Karlie Cowell, sophomore in psychology, said she feels there is a good selection of food on campus, and most products are reasonably priced.
“Some of it, I feel like, is kind of expensive like Chicken Salad Chick,” Cowell said. “It’s always like $10. I mean, they do give you a lot of food, but it still seems kind of expensive to me.”
Cowell said she would like to see a more cafeteria-style dining option with more home-cooked meals.
Since Auburn has a retail campus dining system instead of a meal system, Sallustro said it gives students more flexibility in choosing what they want to eat.