Dartmouth Dining Services introduces new combo specials, lowers prices after further increases

After Dartmouth Student Government voiced concerns, Dartmouth Dining implemented changes including reversing the 30% price increase for the Courtyard Cafe’s burger special.

by Heya Shah | 1/24/23 5:08am

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by Oliver De Jonghe / The Dartmouth

Following concerns voiced by Dartmouth Student Government, Dartmouth Dining Services — which implemented several price increases after the interim break — reversed at least one of these increases. The price of the burger special, which had previously increased by 30% to $13, was lowered back to $10. In addition, Dartmouth Dining introduced new special combos at the Courtyard Cafe that are equivalent to the values of the lunch and dinner meal swipe equivalencies. 

Dining costs and food prices have increased steadily over the past five years, while the value of meal swipes have not. For example, the cost of a Collis Cafe smoothie has risen from $4.75 to $6.75 over the past four years. These prices were further increased when students returned to campus this winter. In addition to an increase in price of the burger special, the price of soda at the Courtyard Cafe increased from $1.50 to $3, and a smoothie now costs $7.25.

According to DSG president David Millman ’23, these price increases were not a result of or part of conversations between DSG and Dartmouth Dining on late-night dining, which returned at the start of the winter term at the Class of 1953 Commons. 

“[The price increases] came as a surprise to me and everybody else in the student government,” Millman said. “It wasn’t something that was at all connected in our discussions around late-night dining.”

Millman said that he believed that the price increases were “problematic,” especially when unaccompanied by an increase in meal swipe dollar equivalencies. According to Dartmouth Dining’s website, meal swipes are valued at $5.25 during the breakfast and late-night periods, $7.50 for lunch and $10 for dinner. 

“The biggest issue right now is that prices are so high that meal swipe equivalencies really don’t cover anything,” Millman said.

Based on his work regarding food insecurity on campus, Millman said that the rise in prices encourages the consumption of more unhealthy food options — which are cheaper than healthier options — and makes the dining environment on campus inequitable.

“It makes it very hard to get healthy options outside of [’53 Commons] because the fruit and salads are expensive, with the salads being $10,” he continued. “Students end up experiencing food insecurity as the term goes on … The prices are making food on campus a luxury rather than a necessity.”

Dartmouth Dining director Jon Plodzik wrote in an email statement that “unprecedented” inflation is the reason behind the rise in prices. 

“Food inflation is real and impacts dining, just like it does everyone,” he wrote. “Dartmouth Dining reviewed our costs for our retail items over the winter break and adjusted the selling prices proportionally.”

Millman said that he believes that Dartmouth Dining’s goal was to attract more students towards eating meals at ’53 Commons. 

“It sounds a lot like [Dartmouth Dining’s] plan is to try to make it so [that ’53 Commons] is the place where students should go and they’re trying to lower the equivalencies at other locations,” Millman said. “It seems to be the essential plan, at least long term.”

However, in response to an email question, Plodzik wrote that this was not the intent behind the price increase.

“The items we sell are costing [Dartmouth Dining] more. It is that simple,” Plodzik wrote. “The best value for any meal swipe used will always be at ’53 Commons.”

According to Millman, DSG brought up the food price increases during regularly scheduled meetings with provost David Kotz, Dean of the College Scott Brown and executive vice president Rick Mills. DSG met with Plodzik and Dartmouth Dining senior staff on Jan. 13 to discuss the food price increases, Millman added.

In response to meeting with DSG, the burger special price was reduced to its original $10 price, Millman said. By Thursday, Dartmouth Dining had also introduced the new special combos.

“We are introducing more value meal combos at Collis [Cafe], Courtyard Cafe and late-night to reduce costs to students, as well as introducing new lower cost menu items,” Plodzik wrote. 

In light of DSG’s meeting with Dartmouth Dining, Millman said that he is optimistic about forming “a more fruitful partnership” between the organizations.

Despite the new special combos, some students said that they continue to believe that the food prices are very high, and the possibility of running out of dining dollars is a stressor they face through the term. 

“It reduces my consumption later on in the term,” Luca Fagotti ’23 said. “If I want something now, I get it, but maybe week seven or eight, I realize I’m running low [on dining dollars] and start cutting things out.”

Additionally, Fagotti said that freshmen, who are required to be on the Ivy Unlimited Plan for their first year at Dartmouth — and which offers only $250 dining dollars per term — are the most affected by price increases. 

“It’s made it less likely that I’ll get something I actually want to eat. I spend more time thinking about the price and the consequence it’s going to have on my total DBA,” Annabelle Niblett ’26 said. “I don’t think it’s something college students should be stressing out about this much.” 

For others, high Dartmouth Dining prices corner students who are left without other dining options in the context of Hanover’s constrained dining scene.

“The school kind of has a monopoly on food, so you need to pay the price either way,” Sai Gudempati ’26 said. “If you’re craving late night food, [’53 Commons] is the only place that is open.”

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