Western Illinois University reduces prices, boosts quality

cafeteria cash register

In a time when it seems as if prices of just about everything are rising, it is rare to find prices being reduced. But that’s just what customers at Western Illinois University (WIU), in Macomb, found when they returned to campus this fall.

“With the rising labor and food costs associated with running a full-service dining operation, University Housing & Dining Services (UHDS) needed to make adjustments to run a more cost-effective operation,” explains Leann Meckler, assistant director, marketing and communications for UHDS. “When making these decisions, we received recommendations and feedback from our students, including Inter-Hall Council, our student foodservice committee and our general student population. Based on this feedback, we concluded that the students’ priority was the value of their dollar, variety and flexibility of options and overall food quality. As a department, UHDS took this feedback and developed a plan to lower costs in the dining centers while keeping, and even improving, the quality of services offered.”

The plan that UHDS developed included renovations to two dining hall facilities and the University Union in order to streamline services and focus on quality, which helped to reduce expenses so that the savings could be passed to students.

UHDS reduced prices on most of its 14,000 items by 15% to 20%—great news for students trying to balance the cost of earning a college degree. “Students will see lower retail prices in the dining centers and union locations, giving them more value for their dollar,” Meckler explains. “Student meal plans will go farther, alleviating some of the financial burdens associated with attending college.”

Not surprisingly, students are happy with the lower prices. “We’ve heard some very positive feedback from our students in regards to the lower prices, food quality, new options and continued flexibility of their dining plan,” says Ketra Russell, assistant director of budget. “These changes were able to be implemented because of some direct cost-reduction measures. Our decisions were in line with what our students valued and because of that, we are receiving positive feedback. The direct impact was to our dining center prices, as this is where we intend for students to use the majority of their meal plan dollars.” 

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