Addendum to Letter (Unprinted)
[Editor: I realize my letter you printed yesterday gave no indication that the content was time sensitive, but in the future it would be a good practice to contact writers if their letter is to be printed more than a few days after they wrote it, and also to print it with the date it was sent--not the date it's printed. Please print this addendum immediately, while my previous letter is still present in the readers' minds.]
My letter printed yesterday accused the Yale University Dining Services of squandering the extreme quantities of money we pay for board as undergraduates. After the letter was submitted, I had the opportunity to talk to Al Kinney and Eric Uscinski, directors of YUDS. The information they provided me indicates that we have to look a little further than the administration to place the blame on our dining service situation.
The numbers I presented are more accurate than I had hoped: To begin with, YUDS operates at around a 5% deficit of revenues, which means our board charge very nearly covers the marginal cost of our contract. More significant, however, is the fact that the average Yalie eats only 14 meals a week in the dining halls. This means that the Guest meal rates are very close to what we pay (and cost) for each meal. It also means that the Flex plan actually costs YUDS money, because most Flexers wouldn't eat more than 14 meals anyway.
(Because every meal we eat is registered in a central database, curious students can visit the YUDS offices at 294 Elm to find out how many meals they've eaten per week in the past year.)
So why don't we feel like we're getting a $10 meal every time we eat dinner? It is indeed costing YUDS $10 to provide it for us. There are three main reasons:
(1) Although they may not always be prepared well, the raw ingredients YUDS purchases are high quality. Many of their suppliers service area restaurants and markets and have indicated that YUDS purchases are of equal or superior grade to those of commercial establishments.
(2) There is inherent inefficiency in maintaining 13 dining halls that aren't all servicing at capacity. Nonetheless, a recent independent consulting report suggested that the only way to improve service would be to increase staffing of the halls. So if the service is as efficient as possible given the constraints on staff and facilities, what's wrong?
(3) The same report pointed out that YUDS staff is far and away the most highly paid in the nation. YUDS is already operating at a deficit, therefore the only way to improve service would be to reduce staff, pay more reasonable wages, or charge even more to the students.
So, while YUDS is struggling to stretch each contract fee, students have five years to meditate while turning over their scrod and soylada: "When the contract comes up for renegotiation, whose side am I on?"
David Bookstaber, '99