Dining Services: Non-students always welcome in campus dining halls

Students stand in line at UConn's McMahon Dining Hall on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

Students and non-students alike are always welcome in campus dining halls.

Most students at UConn have a meal plan, as it is required for any student living in an on campus residence. But there are also many optional meals plans available for off-campus students and UConn employees. And, if you’re not interested in purchasing a plan, there’s always the option to pay your way into any dining unit.

While this option is nothing new, advertisements for walk-in business pricing have popped up in numerous dining halls. Dining services executive director Dennis Pierce said the ads could be left over from Family Weekend. Whether the prices are displayed or not, the option for walk-in business has always been available.

“I’ve never known (the dining halls) not to have this option,” Pierce said.

The prices differ for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner, and are dependent on age. The prices are configured by the Board of Trustees, who vote to increase the prices every year. The new price points must first be approved before they are put in place, Pierce said.

According to Dining Services’ website, prices per meal are as follows, effective as of August 1, 2015:

• Breakfast $7.80 ($5.50 kids under 12)

• Lunch $12.30 ($8.85 kids under 12)

• Brunch $14.80 ($10.70 kids under 12)

• Dinner $15.45 ($10.85 kids under 12)

In comparison to pricing before Aug. 1, regular meals are up 20 cents, 35 cents, 40 cents and 45 cents respectively, while children’s prices are up 15 cents, 25 cents, 30 cents and 30 cents respectively, according to information on Dining Services website.

The prices are made up through a combination of the cost of raw food plus the overhead of running the dining facilities. The prices have been on a pretty consistent trend of increasing by 3 percent each fiscal year, Pierce said.

The target audience is usually non-UConn visitors, UConn faculty and university affiliates, such as those with fixed income or widows of professors, Pierce said. Many of these people purchase community meal plans. However, those who don’t can still count on a reasonably priced meal, whether they prepay for meals through a cash account, or pay per meal at any dining hall swipe counter.

This option isn’t considered a staple in generating profit, nor is that the intention. It has always been available simply as a convenience for those without meal plans, Pierce said.

“It’s an affordable meal. I’m not sure of any other facilities or restaurants around campus that offer this kind of value,” Pierce said, in reference to the dining halls being all-you-can-eat.

A small peak in purchases tend to occur during special occasions, like Family Weekend, or themed dinners, typically drawing in faculty and families, Pierce said.

“I still get calls and have conversations where people ask, ‘Hey, can we eat here?’” Pierce said. “I can’t imagine saying to someone, ‘No, you can’t come in, this is only open to students.’”


Molly Stadnicki is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at molly.stadnicki@uconn.edu. She tweets @molly_stadnicki.