UW-W student questions on-campus grocery prices

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Kayla Bunge
Thursday, November 5, 2009
— Andy Dodge was surprised by the food prices at Drumlin Hall, the dining facility near his dorm on the UW-Whitewater campus.

The freshman journalism major uses the meal plan on his HawkCard to purchase breakfast, lunch and dinner and dorm room snacks and groceries.

“I never actually looked at the prices,” Dodge said. “But I was buying a couple things to keep in my room, and I was looking at the prices, and they seemed pretty expensive. I looked at the prices of the menu items, and they seemed expensive, too.”

He compared prices of menu items and groceries at Drumlin Hall to those at local fast-food restaurants and big-box retailers.

He found little difference in the prices of menu items.

A slice of pizza, a breadstick and a soda cost $5.70 at Drumlin. A similar meal at Rocky Rococo’s, about a half-mile west of campus, costs $6.11.

A 7-inch ham and turkey sub sandwich costs $4.60 at Drumlin. A similar club sub at Subway, a little more than a half-mile west of campus, costs $4.50.

But he found a big difference in the prices of grocery items.

A 12-pack of CocaCola at Drumlin is $4.95, a box of Cheerios is $5.49, and a cup of EasyMac is $1.39. The items are $4.59, $3.45 and 99 cents, respectively, at Daniel’s Sentry, about a half mile west of campus.

Dodge said most students probably don’t realize they’re being charged more than they would at a nearby restaurant or store.

“Most people probably don’t even look at the prices,” he said. “And if you use your card, you don’t have to because you have a meal plan.”

Students can select a meal plan that allows them to use their HawkCard to buy meals at on-campus dining facilities. They can put extra money on their card to use on groceries, snacks or meals for guests.

Ann Wick, marketing director for Chartwells, the dining service provider at UW-Whitewater, said the prices of menu items at the on-campus dining facilities are competitive.

“We compare our prices with the corporate landscape,” she said. “We check similar items … and we try to accommodate for what’s available here. … We like to say students get a good value—especially on a meal plan.”

Wick said students have a wide variety of menu options and the convenience of going to any of several campus dining facilities whenever they want.

It’s more difficult for Chartwells to compete on price with local grocery stores, said Brenda Hinzpater, operations director for Chartwells at UW-Whitewater.

Chartwells buys from wholesalers in smaller quantities than grocery stores and, therefore, has to pay more. The wholesale price plus retail markup is what students pay.

Sixty-percent of the markup covers labor and 15 percent goes to the university, she said.

“We have those items there for convenience. We don’t have them there for profit,” Hinzpater said.

Dodge said for many students, especially those who live in the dorms and don’t have a car, eating meals in campus dining facilities is their only option. He said Chartwells should consider lowering its food prices to better match the local market and students should at least be aware of what they’re spending.

Last updated: 12:01 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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