The University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Dining Services is now offering a new meal plan that only gives weekend access to the dining halls.
It will be a standard “unlimited” style meal plan that operates the same way as current unlimited dining plans, according to William McNamara, executive director of Hospitality Services on campus. “It’s unlimited access, with three guest passes,” McNamara said. “It’s Friday through Sunday, any hours that we’re open.”
The intention behind this new program is to provide weekend dining options to students who might have a reliable source of meals on weekdays, but not on weekends—specifically, “students who live off-campus, more than likely in sororities or fraternities,” McNamara said.
The “target market” is those who live in fraternity and sorority life housing, particularly those whose houses have a cook that works Monday through Friday. “But it is open to any commuter student or those in apartments,” McNamara said.
The new meal plan was proposed by sorority and fraternity students that experience the issue of having a weekday cook and no meal plan for the weekends. McNamara said that the students brought it to the dining administration and the dining committee, who “listened to that feedback” and began considering how to implement the idea.
“We had to make sure the system would allow for something like that,” McNamara said.
The cost for the weekend meal plan will be $923 for a semester. McNamara said that it was calculated by looking at the cost of the Core Plan (the most basic plan) and how many dining service days there are, which becomes the rate per day. Then they applied that number to just weekend days.
“We wanted to make sure that all of our pricing was consistent,” McNamara said.
McNamara emphasized that this does not signify other large-scale change for the dining halls.
“We’ve had some people say, ‘Oh, is Stillings now going to be open more?’ It’s not,” he said. It will be current normal hours for all three halls.
Currently, the weekend meal plan is a “pilot” program, according to McNamara. It was finalized a few weeks ago, and as with all other meal plans, is available for purchase at any time. But McNamara said that “for the value,” students are expected to be more likely to sign up for a plan at the beginning of a semester as opposed to in the middle or toward the end.
McNamara added that he and the other dining officials know that this program is aimed at a “niche crowd.” He estimated about 350 students in sororities and fraternities for whom this program would be beneficial based on the information they gathered.
“Probably not a great number,” McNamara said when asked if he expected many people to sign up. “But if we can help some people find food on the weekends a little bit easier, I think that’s a good thing.”
McNamara also noted that a swipe plan is still available for a similar market of students. “We realize there’s a small market,” he said, who he believes will be interested in the weekend meal plan.
“But if we can get a handful of people…to sign up for it, then I would be optimistic that next year we can get even more people,” McNamara said. “If we can see that people are excited about it, even if we don’t have that many people sign up for it, I think we can definitely try to keep it going.”
“We’ll see,” he said. “We’re excited about it. I just like that it was brought to us by students. It’s a great idea, and we’re happy to give it a whirl.”