By Lexi Carder
In late June 2019, WVU Parkersburg’s long-time contracted food service vendor terminated their contract effective immediately. The financial team went through the process of securing proposals from other food service providers, but were unable to accept any proposals due to state regulation and financial obligation. In late July, the business office worked with other departments to make the decision to run the food service independently. With Fall classes set to begin in less than a month, work began in earnest and Ricky’s Café was able to open during the second week of the semester. Since then there has been significant updates, such as the Keurig and ice cream machine.
“No data was shared from the previous vendor regarding sales or customer counts and volume, so we had to make our best estimates and adjust accordingly,” Brad Wilson, Financial Analyst, said.
After the first semester of WVU Parkersburg having their own food service, the business office made another decision to incorporate a meal card plan: Ricky’s Dining Dollars. If a student is awarded financial aid more than the total of their tuition and fees, the student may charge dining dollars in $50 increments against that credit balance, if there is enough of a credit to use. In other words, if any student has a credit of $25, they cannot charge a $50 dining dollars card. Students may charge a total of $300 per semester, if they have the funds available. Also, they are available to buy directly. Any parent, student or faculty member buying dining dollars with cash or a credit card may buy as many as they wish but the sale of the cards are final and cannot be canceled once processed.
You can view the balance of your card in Ricky’s Café at the cash register. Just like a gift card, any unused balance on a dining dollars card will remain available for student use across semesters and years, unlike other colleges where the amount does not rollover.
How does this plan compare to other colleges? Well, according to Wilson, “I feel we are right in line with other community colleges in this regard. We are not a residential campus, nor do we have the kitchen space of one, so our offerings are limited in comparison to a campus that offers student housing. We are still evolving and adapting and ask for your patience during the process,” he said.
As for actual meal plans, such as swipes and use on other campus food distributors, like the vending machines and bookstore, Wilson says “We are currently evaluating options for meal plans. The dining dollars cards are specific to our system and cannot be utilized at any other device or location. We are currently evaluating the possibility of services in the evenings. Stay tuned!”
“The dining dollars cards are specific to our system and cannot be utilized at any other location and there are not any plans for any outside vendors on campus at this time. That could always change if the circumstances are right, but the cards would not work on their system. However, if an outside vendor were to set up a space on campus on a semi-permanent basis, we would definitely explore the possibility of offering dining dollars for them, as well,” Wilson said.
“I would also like to add that we always welcome student feedback. We are in the process of setting up an online survey to be sent out very soon. Our only purpose is to provide a service to students, staff, faculty, and anyone else on campus,” Wilson said.