By Zaida Martin / Full360 reporter
As students of Delaware Valley University prepared to return for this 2023 Spring semester, some changes at the Levin Dining hall were announced.
The hours for dining would be shortened, and the once “Unlimited” Starbucks in addition to a regular meal plan became limited to two drinks per meal period.
Last semester, during fall 2022, students were able to purchase as many drinks as desired. However, with the new restrictions, students are limited to two drinks per meal period, equaling ten drinks a day. While this might seem like a sufficient amount to most, students want what they were promised and pay thousands of dollars to have.
“I think it’s a double standard, how can they limit unlimited,” said Sam Rasner, class of 2023. “I feel like the café has been trying to focus on customer service and improving meals but then they are confusing and do things like this.
Dining hall officials were quick to respond that these changes reflect cost-cutting measures implemented by the university, but students pointed out the cut into the meal plans’ ability to support and nurture generosity among peers.
Others expressed their fondness for other people’s generosity when sharing benefits, like Elizabeth Weed, class of 2025.
“If someone couldn’t grab their card I would see a complete stranger pay for someone’s drink,” Weed said. “Just being good generous members of society. I thought you would want to promote generosity on campus.”
Another concern is the continued advertising of “unlimited” Starbucks and the cost of seemingly fewer benefits. According to the university’s meal plan portion of the website, a seven-day meal plan, including $50 in standard Flex and unlimited Starbucks at Levin would be $3,925 per semester. This cost and information have remained unchanged since the fluctuation in dining, and is mandatory for students living on campus.
The general manager of Levin Dining hall, Jennifer Rodolfo, was able to answer many of these questions.
“We were actually tasked by the university to find some cost savings for this semester. That was the biggest thing that affects everything, especially like with the changes of hours and things like that.”
The Levin Dining hall is partnered with Parkhurst Dining – a division of the Eat’n Park Hospitality Group based in Pittsburgh, PA. They are a hospitality and food service empire, founded in 1949 with many locations across the Mid-Atlantic Region.
As part of this contracted catering and dining, Parkhurst is the middleman between the students and the University. While DelVal collects tuition and other costs, dining plans go through Parkhurst, which are then reimbursed by the University.
As the cost of both labor and supplies has gone up, the cost of dining plans remains stagnant. Costs have remained at about $3000 per semester since before the COVID-19 pandemic, around 2019. To keep this stability, costs must be cut in other areas.
“After we ran the usage rates, no one was really getting more than four drinks a day. Which is still a lot of Starbucks drinks, so what we did was looked at the numbers and asked, how can we manage the food cost.”
After looking at these numbers, the University and Parkhurst dining now offer two drinks per two-hour meal period time frame – equaling 10 drinks per day. According to Rodolfo’s data, there is a 5% cost savings for the University thus far.
Reduced hours are also a concern of students, but was a response in terms of labor and cost. The average cost of food has increased up to 12%, and labor has increased by 17%.
“On Sunday, we served eighty-four drinks, which is not a lot compared to the two hundred and fifty drinks we serve on a regular weekday. So, it’s significantly slower which is why we have smaller hours, you can still get something but we save on that labor.”
Rodolfo goes on to express her appreciation for student feedback, positive or negative.
“I can’t make things better if I don’t get the negative comment cards, but I love reading them…I think we’re getting there. We’re not quite where I wanna be yet, but we’re getting there.”