Starbucks is a major attraction to many students at Missouri Western due to most students needing their daily coffee fix to function. Western is getting a new Starbucks this summer, following a seven-year contract renewal, with an additional three year-option, with Aramark.
Western’s previous contract with Aramark was from 2014-17 and was renewed on March 21, 2017. The current renewal of Aramark’s contract is significantly longer than the last one and can potentially oversee Western’s dining for the next decade.
It is a seven-year deal, and after that, Western has the option to keep Aramark for three more years or go in another direction. Capital investment, such as the money in to turn the Java City space into a Starbucks, was a large reason that this deal was made according to Vice President of Financial Planning Cale Fessler.
“We elected to go with a seven plus three year-option for a number of reasons,” Fessler said. “Capital investment is a primary reason there. Also, when a company puts capital into an investment like this, there is an amortization of an investment.”
Amortization is the process of distributing the cost of an intangible asset over a period of time. When Western’s three-year contract was coming to an end with Aramark, there was still some money that hadn’t yet been processed.
“Some money of the three-year investment, that we made in our prior renewal, was still out there to be amortized, meaning that another company would have to pay back Aramark if we agreed to sign them,” Fessler said. “For example, if there was $1 million left on the contract yet to be amortized, and we signed a different bidder, then that company would have to pay that exact amount to Aramark.”
Although many other companies bid for Western’s dining, Aramark had the best offers. Adding to capital investment, an additional reason on extending the contract is to potentially help future investment opportunities according to Vice President for Student Affairs Shana Meyer.
“We had several companies come in and bid, but Aramark was able to come up with the best deals all around for the students, upgrading facilities and the best benefits for our campus,” Meyer said. “Essentially the longer the contract that is agreed upon, the more investment the company is willing to put into the institution.”
Although it may be concerning to be locked down with Aramark for such a long time period, there are ways to get out of the contract if necessary.
“As with any contract, if Aramark is not meeting the terms of the contract, there are ways to cancel the contract if need be,” Meyer said.
Another big reason to renew the contract with Aramark is the new establishments that are being renovated in Blum Union this past and future summers according to Fessler.
“Bringing in more recognizable name-brand, third-party establishments were another deciding factor to renew the contract with Aramark,” Fessler said. “There’s going to be a renovation for Starbucks this summer, which was very appealing to everyone at Missouri Western since that was something that we have not had on campus before.”
The recent renovation of the food court and dining hall was the beginning of a multi-year renovation plan. That was part of an initial bid process that Aramark and Western agreed to bring in better eating establishments in the next few years.
“So, year one, they did all the renovations to the food court area where we brought in a Chick-fil-A and also renovated Zoca,” Fessler said. “There was significant renovation done in the layout of the food court, along with the dining hall.”
Chick-fil-A is one of the more popular fast food restaurants, so many students were happy when Western opened it last fall. Residential Hall Director Nathan Roberts says that adding Chick-fil-a has brought more students living on campus to the food court.
“Bringing in Chick-fil-A has really brought more residents to eat in the food court other than the cafeteria,” Roberts said. “Mostly it is just providing somewhere for student to eat who aren’t given access to cook, since Griffon Hall is really the only residential hall that has good kitchen access.”
Following this semester, the plan calls for more renovations in Blum Union throughout the summer to bring in a Starbucks according to Fessler.
“Where the Java City is right now will be turned into Starbucks,” Fessler said. “So there will be a much bigger footprint there. The renovation of that will start after graduation, and will continue into the summer.”
Being a more known establishment than Java City, it may bring in a bigger crowd to Blum Union.
“I think a that a big thing with us getting a Starbucks, that most people don’t realize, is attracting more gatherings in Blum,” Roberts said. “Since Starbucks is such a big attraction, Blum could become more popular in that sense. I don’t see too many meetings and such being done there now, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that changed.”
Following the opening of Starbucks, there are plans for even more renovations in the summer of ‘19. Year three of this plan still has some details to be sorted out but is going to address Einstein’s Bagels in Agenstein Hall.
“There are some smaller plans for year three. Small renovations of Einstein’s in Agenstein will occur in the summer of ‘19, but there’s still certain aspects to be sorted out” Fessler said.
In order to eat at the dining establishments at Missouri Western, students are able to get meal plans so they don’t have to pay out of pocket three times a day to eat. There are a variety of different meal plans and they are divided into three different categories: declining flex, meal plans and block plans.
Declining flex is one of the more common meal plans for college students and has become even more common this school year. Flex is money put onto a student’s ID that is used for different establishments across the entire university. Aramark Food Service Director Stephen Kerr explains why flex is more popular than other meal plans this school year.
“The renovation of the food court has made more students want flex dollars, so they can have more places to eat,” Kerr said. “That’s why we are looking at how we can add more establishments and give you guys more places to eat.”
Bringing in more establishments encourages students to get flex instead of a meal plan. Sophomore Jarrod Coiner explains why he chose declining flex over a meal plan this year.
“I chose the $1,600 flex because I feel like you get the best bang for your buck,” Coiner said. “There are a lot of different places all around campus that you can use flex with, other than only being able to eat in the dining hall.”
Declining flex is available in two options: $800 or $1,600. It costs the exact amount in dollars and is given out in three different dates, instead of all at once.
“Flex is given out in three installments to help students learn their budgeting,” Kerr said. “Certain students would spend all of their flex before the semester ended if they had all $1,600 put onto their cards at the beginning.”
The disbursement dates this semester are Jan. 8, Feb. 19 and March 26. If some students go through an entire installment before one of those specific dates, they can get an early installment.
“If you run out of your stipend, you can just come to the office to receive the next installment early,” Kerr said. “We are not keeping it from you, we just have these dates that all students receive them to help them prepare for real-life financial situations.”
Freshmen have different options than the upperclassmen for meal plans. It is set up that way to help new college students learn how to control money and other responsibilities.
“The flex plans are only given to upperclassmen because when students walk into the university, they are not used to controlling money and usually don’t know how meal plans work,” Kerr said. “So it is allowing the students to get used to being on their own, improve their eating habits and how to control their money.”
Freshmen are only allowed meal plans, instead of declining flex. Meal plans consists of a certain amount of meals in the dining hall each week, plus a certain amount of flex for the entire semester-except for the all access plan, which is unlimited meals in the dining hall. However, these meal plans have less flex than a declining plan.
“Freshmen are allowed the 10 meals, 12 meals, 15 meals and the all access meal plan,” Kerr said. “Other than the all access, each one of those plans come with flex, but with different amounts. The 10 and 15 meal plans have $425 flex, while the 12 meal plan has just $225 flex.”
The all access meal plan is the cheapest of the four meal plans-but more expensive than the other plans-and costs $1,729. The 15 meal plan is the most expensive meal plan at $2,082; the second most expensive is the 10 meal plan at $2,069; while the 12 meal plan is next, costing $1,876.
Although meal plans are usually had by students who live at Western, off-campus students can have meal plans as well. There are specific meal plans for commuting students-the block plan. The block plans are the cheapest meal plans at Western. It is $195 for 25 blocks, and $400 for 55 blocks.
“A block plan is a set of meals that is given to commuters only for the dining hall,” Kerr said. “There is only a certain amount of meals available, so when they’re gone, they’re gone-unlike the meal plans whereas the 10, 12 and 15 meals are renewed every week.”
Commuting college students don’t have to have the block plan, they can have declining flex or a meal plan instead. The plans that these specific students choose varies because it depends on their preferences and schedules.
“If commuters only have class a few days out of the week, they are more likely to get a block plan other than a meal plan,” Kerr said. “However, if they have class every day, it is more likely that they will get a meal plan instead, since they are on campus other than at home throughout the day.”
A good number of commuters, who have meal plans, get flex as well. Once again, the introduction of Chick-fil-A was a large deciding factor.
Overall, declining flex is a more popular choice among meal plans, but it depends on the student’s preferences. The new renovations this summer may change certain student’s minds once again.