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Meal Plans


Replies to: Meal Plans

  • Matt125Matt125 Registered User Posts: 762 Member
    Interesting how in this case, they know what a discount is. I had to explain it to Aramark in an email. Still waiting on a response.

    It's a bit long, but laced with sarcasm for everyone's enjoyment. Figured if I spent all the time to type up a complaint here, might as well send it to someone who can answer the questions.
    Good Evening,

    My name is [Matt125], and I am a senior at Florida State University. I was reviewing the mealplan brochure for the 2012-2013 school year, and I have found numerous of Seminole Dining’s pricing and marketing tactics to be both puzzling and unsound. Given this, my hope is that a Seminole Dining representative might be able to help me understand how such decisions were made.

    My first concern is a flagrant inconsistency in the price points of the unlimited mealplan. In the 7 Day All Access Plus***Most Economical Membership, the price for unlimited meals and $350 flexbucks is $2150. For $200 more, one can upgrade to the 7 Day All Access Premium plan which is exactly the same thing with $150 additional flexbucks. Why is it $200 to upgrade to a plan that has only a $150 addition of food credit that expires within a year? I would like to commend you on a great name choice for the plan, as those who choose it indeed pay a “premium” on flex bucks. Clever play on words that I wager few will pick up on.

    My second concern is in the pricing of the 150 block plan. The 150 block meal plan costs $1900 and includes $400 flexbucks. This means the 150 meals themselves cost $1500, or $10 per meal. 150 meals spread out over 16 weeks comes out to 9.375 meals per week. This means in order for the plan holder to maximize the value of their mealplan, they must use it for dinner 7 days per week and lunch an average of 2.375 times per week (112 dinners and 38 lunches). If the plan holder instead purchased these meals with garnet bucks, they would pay only $1461. I also find it puzzling that according to the meal plan terms and conditions, “To keep discounts high, meal plans are not transferable to others and are strictly for the person stated on the FSUCard.” Granted, I have only taken an intro accounting course, but I seem to remember that something which costs more than face value is referred to as a premium (which according to dictionary.com is an antonym of the word discount). The only possible explanation for how Seminole Dining is able to get away with such a price is that it is the cheapest mealplan that satisfies the mealplan requirement for the renovated east-side residence halls. Some might consider this price gouging, and is highly unethical from a business perspective.

    My final concern is that based on my analysis, the unlimited mealplans are marketed in a way that is very deceiving. This claim refers to the third page of the following brochure: http://www.seminolediningmobile.com/mpinfo/2012-mpinfo.pdf.

    The link claims that meals cost $5.21 each, presumably by dividing 1800 by 345 (three times the number of days between the opening and closing of residence halls). This assumes that the meal plan holder arrives on campus the morning residence halls opens and eats three meals per day at the dining halls every day until the residence halls close. This is highly unlikely to occur given that most people leave Tallahassee at the very least for Thanksgiving break. Moreover, and perhaps the greatest fault in this logic, the meal plan also comes with $300 flexbucks, which is not included in the $1800. The only way to go to the dining halls 345 times is to not use flexbucks, which means the plan holder actually paid 2100 for those 345 meals.

    I can speculate on the many reasons why I believe Seminole Dining prices and markets their products the way they do, but based on the above analysis, I can conclusively claim that Seminole Dining employs a multitude of unsound practices in marketing their products. This is without even digging into the quality of the product and service (IE: Poor weekend hours at dining halls which reduce value of unlimited meal plans and low quality foods).

    With that, I would like to thank you for reading and looking into my concerns and analysis. I very much look forward to a response from Seminole Dining on this matter.

  • NoletteNolette Registered User Posts: 259 Junior Member
    Great job, Matt. I can't wait to see if they answer, but I'm not holding my breath.

    I googled UF meal plans to see if they have the same issues and found this article. Although 2 years old, it has some interesting information.

  • PasbalPasbal Registered User Posts: 2,000 Senior Member
    I myself am definitely interested in seeing what, if anything, they say in response to that. There's really very little they can say to refute what you said, since you're pretty much spot on.
  • wilde1969wilde1969 Registered User Posts: 33 Junior Member
    Right, I'm curious as well to see how they respond to it. Let us know if you can
  • Matt125Matt125 Registered User Posts: 762 Member
    I will of course post the response as soon as I get one.

    I plan to follow up in a week if I don't hear back. Perhaps the FSView might be interested in running an editorial on this.
  • NoletteNolette Registered User Posts: 259 Junior Member
    Yes Matt! You must contact them!

    Did you read the article above that I posted the link to? It seems that all Aramark-run university dining facilities have the same issues. Interesting that our prices are the higher than both UF and UCF, though. And I don't think UF has any dorms with mandatory meal plans.
  • PasbalPasbal Registered User Posts: 2,000 Senior Member
    Yeah, it looks like FSU is getting screwed compared to UF. I didn't look up UCF's or USF's plans.

    7-Day All Access Plus:
    UF- $2146 (after tax), with $450 FlexBucks. (Net: $1696)
    FSU- $2150, with $350 FlexBucks. (Net: $1800)
    FSU loses by $104

    Cheapest 7-Day All Access Plan:
    UF- $1896 (after tax), with $200 FlexBucks (Net: $1696)
    FSU- $1999, with $150 FlexBucks. (Net: $1849)
    FSU loses by $153

    UF also has the option of a Weekly 14 plan, which is $1837 after tax, and includes $300 in FlexBucks.

    Are there any actual advantages FSU's meal plans have over UF's?
  • SweetheartCrocSweetheartCroc Registered User Posts: 589 Member
    It may be more expensive for them to operate in Tallahasee due to the distance from their distribution centers (not sure where they are) or the slightly higher cost of operating in a city vs a college town in rural Florida.
  • NoletteNolette Registered User Posts: 259 Junior Member
    What's interesting though is that there are no mandatory meal plans at UF.
  • NoletteNolette Registered User Posts: 259 Junior Member
    From UCF's website:
    Welcome to CampusDish at the University of Central Florida!

    Get your meal plan today to check out some of our awesome dining hall additions:

    Xbox 360 gaming console with Kinect
    Study lounge
    Free wireless Internet
    Comfortable lounge seating
    Flat screen TVs
    Full-service espresso bar
    Mongolian grill
    Brick-oven pizza
    Extended morning and late-night hours

    Each Fall/Spring Meal Plan purchase comes with a 2-in-1 Tumbler and a To-Go Box!

    All Access 7
    Unlimited visits (Monday-Sunday) to the Marketplace & Knightro's + $50 Knight Cash
    $1,861.00 +Tax Per Semester

    All Access 5
    Unlimited visits (Monday-Friday) to the Marketplace & Knightro's + $50 Knight Cash
    $1,703.00 +Tax Per Semester

    Any 14
    14 meals per week at the Marketplace & Knightro's +$50 Knight Cash
    $1,545.00 +Tax Per Semester

    Note: The fall semester meal plan begins on Aug. 17, 2012 with lunch, and ends Dec. 12, 2012 after lunch. The spring semester meal plan begins Jan. 5, 2013 with lunch, and ends May 1, 2013 after lunch. The dining halls will close during the following dates, but please note that updated hours of operation will be posted at Welcome to CampusDish at the University of Central Florida! Thanksgiving break: closed Nov. 21, 2012 after lunch, re-opens Nov. 25, 2012 for dinner. Winter break: closed Dec. 12, 2012 after lunch, re-opens Jan. 5, 2013 for lunch. Spring break: closed Mar. 1, 2013 after. dinner, re-opens Mar. 10, 2013 for dinner.
  • FSUDAD1FSUDAD1 Registered User Posts: 224 Junior Member
    I thought that the mandatory plans at FSU were in trade for Aramark's financial contribution toward dorm renovations in buildings such as Landis Hall and others.
  • NoletteNolette Registered User Posts: 259 Junior Member
    FSUDAD1, if that's true, it was a terrible idea. I wouldn't mind it so much if there was less of a committment. It looks like USF has the most variety of the schools, but they offer the smaller plans only to off-campus residents and upperclassmen.

    Welcome to CampusDish at the University of South Florida!

    I wonder if FSU had any input into how the meal plans were to be structured. Could they really be in favor of what Aramark is charging for their plans? Maybe if they believe all the benefits of eating on campus, they should have negotiated a much smaller mandatory meal plan for all freshmen, like many out of state schools do. That way, no one would have to spend $2000 + a semester, and would be able to have some variety in what they ate so they wouldn't get sick of the food so fast.

    Why can't we have something similar to these USF plans?:

    These plans are available exclusively to returning on campus residents and students living off campus!

    Fall 2012/Spring 2013 - Block Meal Plan Details

    BULLBlock 60
    $350 Dining Dollars and 60 meals per semester. Averages 3-4 meals per week for the semester. $735.00 per semester
    ($6.00 plus tax per meal)

    BULLBlock 40
    $375 Dining Dollars and 40 meals per semester. Averages 2-3 meals per week for the semester. $640.00 per semester
    ($6.19 plus tax per meal)
  • NoletteNolette Registered User Posts: 259 Junior Member
    I did some investigating and found out that Aramark was guaranteed 1500 meal plans when Suwannee Dining Hall was renovated (I'm guessing they paid at least a large part of the cost). FSU chose the renovated halls to fulfill this requirement.

    I don't have a problem with that, just the fact that the meal plans are overpriced. I hope FSU will be able to find a fair solution to this obligation. One idea would be that all freshmen would have a much smaller mandatory plan, maybe a $500 block plan minimum per semester that wouldn't be price gouging.

    Just a thought, anyone else have other ideas?
  • Matt125Matt125 Registered User Posts: 762 Member
    I was told by someone in the housing dept a while back that the reason for the mandatory meal plans was that Aramark helped fund the renovations of the east side halls. I found the interview with former housing director Dr. Moser (http://ohp.fsu.edu/webpdf/2023_Moser.pdf), and now see it was only to renovate the dining hall.

    While I don't think it was such a bad deal on FSU's end, it would sure seem Aramark is taking full advantage of the contract by gouging FSU's freshmen.

    It's time for them to be exposed.
  • NoletteNolette Registered User Posts: 259 Junior Member
    Matt, that's the interview I found as well. I just found this Finance and Administration document:


    On the second line of Key Accomplishments (2010) it states:

    •Business Services - Signed five-year extension of food services contract with Aramark through 2018

    I would love to know how much input FSU has in the meal plan structure. I can't believe they would allow Aramark to set these ridiculous prices and terms.
This discussion has been closed.