Ever eaten on campus and, after getting your change back, felt that the same meal from the same restaurant chain is cheaper at off-campus locations?
That’s because it is.
At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. An additional $1.12 spent at Subway or $1 at Burger King doesn’t seem like much. When you spend hours on campus, though, and eat more than one meal a day there, the price differences add up. It’s inexcusable that such a price discrepancy exists, especially considering that on-campus dining should benefit students — not create profit for a captive market.
Curious to see the exact price differences among the major food vendors, I made it a point to visit local restaurants off campus and compare their prices to those of the same restaurants on campus.
The differences were significant.
For instance, as you may have noticed, the Subway on campus does not offer its famous “Five-Dollar Footlong” deal, a program that would save students money. Its subs are also substantially more expensive, with price differences ranging from 30 cents to $1 per sandwich.
The Burger King on campus does not offer their well-known “BK Value Menu,” which includes fries, drinks and a range of hamburgers, all for a $1 each.
Chick-fil-A is the only major franchise on campus that, for the most part, sticks to the prices found at off-campus locations.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I usually grab a quick lunch at the on-campus Subway, where I purchase a six-inch Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki sandwich and a drink. I also get lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays and dinner on campus everyday from either Burger King or the food venues in the Marshall Student Center. By the end of the week, I’ve spent $7.40 on each meal — more than I would have had I not eaten on campus.
Students don’t always have time to pack lunch and bring it with them, so they usually end up eating on campus. Also, if students leave campus to eat elsewhere, they run the risk of losing a precious parking spot and not finding another one before class.
Students aren’t enthused with these price differences, but USF’s on-campus food provider said they’re fair.
Senior Mike Alderman, who shares a car with his brother, said he first noticed the price differences while eating at Subway.
“It’s convenient for me to eat here on campus. It does end up being expensive for me though.” Alderman said he spends a little over $20 a day for morning coffee, snacks, lunch and dinner.
The food venues on campus are owned by their distributor, Aramark.
“All our pricing is competitive to the local pricing that you would find in the local Tampa market,” District Manager Tom Williamson said.”The prices are set by each franchise locations on campus and reviewed by the University each year.”
Sure, it’s understandable that Aramark depends on student revenue, but on college campuses, where there will always be a constant demand for food venues, pricing should not be competitive.
The argument could be made that it seems nit-picky and nonsensical to worry about seemingly insignificant price differences when all students think about on campus is finding a parking space, midterms and getting to class. But at the end of the day, students’ pockets are already hit hard with tuition and fees, and it’s not right that students have to endure higher food prices, too.
Rebekah Rosado is a junior double majoring in sociology and mass communications.