The University Dining Services held the line as best as they could.
Unfortunately, the shape of the economy proved too big of a factor. Consequently, retail dining services on campus were recently hit by a price increase that students have noticed just a few weeks into the semester.
A number of products in retail stores, such as the Anchor, the Galley, and the Cove were hit by a 10 – 25 cents increase.
“We did not increase prices across the board for everything,” said Edward Nase, director of University Dining Services.
Some of the products affected were half subs by 25 cents, beverages as high as 10 cents, and garden salads in the Anchor by 20 cents.
The Juice Bar experienced a high price increase of 46 cents, though it is driven by the vendor who provides the product.
“The prices are consistent across the campus,” said Mr. Nase. However, the decision is not a favorable one among the campus. Dining Services feels the same way, though.
“We were concerned ourselves,” Mr. Nase said. “We can’t hold the line without doing something.”
If there is anyone to blame, it is the economy that has forced the decision to increase the prices. There were other options, though not any more favorable.
Dining Services could have decided on reducing the quality, the portion size, or eliminating a product – a popular one at that – altogether. Ultimately, their decision seemed like the best one available to them.
Mr. Nase said, “We didn’t feel as though we were over increasing things.”
In some cases, most of the products could have been steeper.
“When you figure out your pricing for an item, it’s always based upon total ingredient cost,” said Mr. Nase.
The total ingredient cost goes like this: costs go up, price goes up. The entire cost of a product is driven by a single ingredient. Needless to say, bacon is a high demand item. The cost for bacon increased for Dining Services. But students did not feel the full force in the products that contain bacon. A 60 to 90 cent increase would have been applied to fruit cups. Instead, the portion size was decreased by an ounce or so to only have a price increase of 5 cents.
“When your costs continue to rise as relative to what you’re charging, ultimately you do need to make a change,” Mr. Nase said.
Dining Services knows about change, where they use multiple vendors outside their prime vendor, Ettline Foods, operating out of York, PA. Outside of Ettline Foods, Dining Services sources other vendors for better or equal quality products and at a better price.
“We may contact other vendors and do some market shopping,” said Mr. Nase. “Can we get a better price from someone else?”
It’s part of their retail strategy. They will watch the market and use the same vendors. Often, they will look toward other convenience stores like Turkey Hill for the ideas on product pricings. After all, the retail stores on campus are convenience stores, and cannot be compared to big supermarkets like Weis, Giant, and John Herr’s.
Although the price increase is an unfavorable one, the decision goes through many people before it’s finalized.
Mr. Nase receives the information of an increase from the Dining Services’ purchasing manager, who hands it off to the unit supervisors. There, they offer recommendations based upon the market, the economy, and other factors. Mr. Nase said the unit supervisors recommended a higher increase than what was implemented, but was denied by the Dining Services staff. The final approval is then made by the finance committee.
Despite the price increase, meal plan dollars increase by a couple cents every year. Mr. Nase said that lunch increased by 5 cents while dinner increased by 20 cents. Many factors are calculated to determine the increase, such as meals and weeks in a semester, along with the value of that meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Whether or not the retail stores will see future price increases, Mr. Nase cannot foresee them.
“If the economy drive prices up, we may need to react,” he said.
Ultimately, Dining Services always tries to hold the line in order to provide affordable and high quality products not only for the students, but everyone who visit the campus.
“We need to maintain the quality this community is used to,” said Mr. Nase.