UDS out of financial hole

Adam Wright and Adam Wright

After a long and strenuous fiscal year 2003 that saw a debt of close to $1 million, university dining services is finally out of the red and already planning ways to improve eating on campus.”I’m feeling very good about the future,” said Gail Finan, director of UDS. Included in the prospective plans that have Finan so excited are the highly anticipated arrival of Starbucks, a new dining center in the Harshman quadrangle and a “major” renovation of McDonald Dining Center. UDS is also beginning the process of putting money back into reserve funds that were nearly depleted to offset the heavy losses incurred by the opening of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union in 2002.When the Union opened, students flooded its Falcon’s Nest food court for the wide variety of tasty treats available. This immediate and lasting surge in business was devastating for the other dining centers on campus, some of which incurred thousands of dollars a month in losses.Finan, who entered her position in 2003 in the midst of the financial crisis, said it was a combination of the hardworking faculty and innovative programs that helped turn the economic situation of UDS around so quickly. Other contributing factors included the success of the Falcon football team, whose longevity last season provided lots of business for the UDS catering service and Flexfunds, the infamous program that forced students to purchase food at other dining centers. “It succeeded in doing what it needed to do,” Finan said about the program.By allowing only a portion of a student’s food plan to be spent at the Union, Flexfunds created a campus-wide stir from the moment it was implemented last fall. UDS tried to ease tensions this year by increasing Flexfunds for the minimum meal plan from $75 to $100 and allowing unused money to carry over from semester to semester.While the students detested having to eat away from the Nest once their money ran out, business at the other dining centers returned to normal. Not every restaurant on campus benefited, however. Wendy’s in the Union, for example, has been losing money because of Flexfunds — especially during the final weeks of a semester when many students have only regular funds left on their meal plans, according to Wendy’s owner, Becky Williams.As a result, Williams will have to cut back on food donations her restaurant made last year for various events around campus. She still plans to give money to Dance Marathon, though, and hopes to top last year’s contribution of over $3,000.