Dining on campus: the value of a meal swipe

By Kaitlyn McCormick

There is no doubt that college dining plans come with a price ticket, but while Rider students are lucky to have meal exchange options at various venues on campus, are they getting their money’s worth? When considering the value of a meal swipe at Daly’s Dining Hall compared to other campus eateries like Saxbys or The Pub, the full value of one meal exchange is questionable.

Though he declined an interview, Rider’s Assistant Vice President of
Auxiliary Affairs Andrew Pignataro communicated the flat-rate prices of meal swipes to The Rider News via email. Pignataro explained that the door rates for each dining period at Daly’s are $7.95 for breakfast, $10.95 for lunch and $11.95 for dinner.

Pignataro wrote, “The meal exchange consists of a full meal option that includes an entrée, side snack/dessert and a beverage.”

While some meals at retail dining venues on campus seem to fit reasonably into this price margin, offering meals that include a full entrée with a drink and side like chips or an apple, other options feel like a little bit of a rip-off.

For example, one meal exchange at The Pub can get an order of cheese fries off the appetizer menu, which comes with either bottled water or fountain soda, without the option of a snack or dessert and the inability to stack the exchange with another smaller meal item. On the credit and BroncBucks menu, however, cheese fries are listed as a side and cost $4.95 and a fountain drink $1.55. While Pignataro explained that meal exchanges are “determined by the cost of food, labor and royalties for brands,” using a full meal swipe for a $6.50 total compared to the lunch and dinner period door rates at Daly’s seems steep, especially when the option isn’t equivalent to a full meal.

Even Saxbys, the only meal exchange service that operates within the breakfast window, offers smoothies as a meal exchange, which range from $4.95 to $5.75, compared to a $7.95 door price at Daly’s for the meal period.

The Carte Blanche plan currently costs $2,795 per semester with $175 in BroncBucks and unlimited swipes, and the Carte Blanche Plus plan costs $2,875 per semester with $275 in BroncBucks and unlimited swipes, however, Rider’s dining website notes this disclaimer: “If you use a Meal Exchange at a participating retail location during the same meal period, you will not be able to use the unlimited swipes into Daly’s Dining Hall during the same meal period. You must wait until the next meal period before entering Daly’s or using another meal exchange.”

Unfortunately, there appears to be limits on the unlimited plans that many students opt for.

Sophomore biochemistry major Emma Zinser expressed her disappointment in some of the meal options available, specifically her experience as a student on an unlimited meal plan.

“I am a vegetarian, so it’s really difficult for me to eat anything on campus, let alone on meal exchange … I also pay for the unlimited meal plan, but if you use a meal swipe you can continue to go back versus when you use a meal exchange, you can only use one during that meal period, so if I meal exchange all three of my meals that day, I’m only getting three full meals on my unlimited meal plan,” Zinser said.

Sophomore music major Bella Nakum expressed a similar grievance with the dining prices at Rider.
“The idea is there and the concept [of the meal exchange] makes complete sense, but, in practice … realizing how little I’m getting for my value is making me not want to use the meal exchange,” Nakum said.

Of course, students can continue to go to Daly’s and use their initial meal swipe, but often students running tight schedules find convenience in ordering ahead from the venues in Cranberry’s, which is closer to the academic quad. This adds to the frustration of students feeling like they may not be seeing the full value of their meal plan when utilizing certain exchange options.

While dining services at Rider do provide a wide range of options for students at Daly’s and Cranberry’s, better consistency and matches in value would be appreciated.

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