In order to make the deal, University Counsel Jon Waggoner became the arbiter between on-campus food provider, Chartwells, and the company in charge of Jordan-Hare concessions, Sodexo.
“Long story short is the students asked for it, and it’s something we wanted to give the for a while, but it took some contractual wrangling and some accounting to figure it all out,” Waggoner said. “What I had to do was get everyone to agree to share and trade money in such a way that it enables students to use their money at Sodexo vendors.”
Waggoner said SGA had been asking about the possibility of a policy change for a long time, and SGA president Owen Parrish even included it as part of his election platform.
“The ability to use Tiger Cards in the student section of football games was a platform point of mine and something that SGA has recently worked to accomplish,” Parrish said. “We touched on this subject in multiple meetings and worked to advocate the student desire for dining dollars in the stadium.”
Waggoner said 18 percent of money spent using a Tiger Card goes to fund Tiger Dining, which means Sodexo now has to pay a percentage of its profits to the University. Despite this, Waggoner said Sodexo benifits from the agreement in several ways.
“I can’t speak for them, but if I were Sodexo, I would want students to be able to use the Tiger Card because sometimes a student might not have cash in their pocket and credit cards have fees associated with them,” Waggoner said. “It’s quicker to do a card transaction than a cash transaction, which keeps customers happy.”
Reaching an agreement was still difficult, however, because Waggoner had to convince Chartwells to relinquish a portion of its profits to Sodexo.
“There’s a number of reasons why Sodexo would want the card,” Waggoner said. “The more difficult question is why Chartwells would want to allow that transaction to take place. They have all sorts of costs in running, and now you spend your money in a Sodexo venue while they still have all these expenses.”
Waggoner said Chartwells agreed partly because of the benefits the deal would bring to students.
“We had to convince Chartwells that it was in their best interests to allow us to do this, so we provided certain givebacks to them, financial incentives,” Waggoner said. “We convinced them that ‘Hey, you’re a great partner, and we want you to be so in favor of students that even if it’s not the most productive financial transaction, we’d love for you to help allow this to happen.’”
Tiger Card use for concession stands in other sports venues may also be considered in the future.
“We’re going to see how it goes,” Waggoner said. “I actually asked for that from the food contractors, and we decided to try it here first in each student concession stand. If it works well, then we’ll consider asking them to expand to the baseball stadium and the arena.”
Waggoner said he is glad he was able to help broker an agreement that will provide more options for students.
“It’s not like it’s rocket science,” Waggoner said. “I don’t want to make it seem like it’s the most complicated thing in the world. It was just a matter of convincing people in this very big transaction to make the exceptions that were necessary to enable this to happen, and I’m proud that we’ve gotten it done.”