It’s not uncommon to see students with Blue Bucks make decisions about dinner based on where they can pay with their Mcard, and now, there’s a new similar currency that might start dictating meal choices.
Eatblue — a local restaurant guide geared toward students — is introducing the Eatblue meal plan card, which provides similar services to Blue Bucks, with off-campus food options included.
The meal plan cards can have a self-selected or pre-set quantity of meals on them, and carry leftover funds between semesters and years. The card can be used much like a debit card both on and off campus, as well as for delivery and online ordering.
Right now, 22 restaurants accept the new meal plan cards, including Amer’s Mediterranean Deli, Cottage Inn Pizza, Noodles & Company and Rendez Vous Café.
David Laiderman, owner of Eatblue, describes the cards as both a means to expand the company’s service reach, and to allow students to dine off campus — while still ensuring that parents are aware of how the money is used.
“We thought it would be great to put together a card that did allow purchasing off campus and gave parents the same benefits, if not more, of depositing that money onto an off-campus card and having peace of mind to know that the money is actually being spent on food as it’s intended,” Laiderman said.
The Eatblue meal plan card is meant to attract more interest by way of a variety of deals and discounts.
“In order to entice students to get their parents involved we do a lot of discount promotions and different kinds of deals within the cards themselves, so you can get a lot of free food promotions and discount by purchasing with the cards,” said Laiderman.
Laiderman says the cards have been very successful so far.
“We just signed on our 100th cardholder which, for a new program, we’re pretty excited about that,” said Laiderman.
Law student Jeff Klein said that if the discount was large enough, he might think about it, but otherwise did not think it would be worth restricting himself to a handful of restaurants.
“I’d rather just carry cash,” said Klein.
Business School senior Bill Penegor said he definitely would be interested in an off-campus card option, because it would allow him to have a way for his parents to pay for his food.
Emily Francis, the local marketing consultant for Chipotle Mexican Grill, located on the 200 block of S. State Street, explained that the decision to take part in the new meal plan card was largely to make eating at the restaurant easier for students by offering them another way to pay.
“On a lot of our campus locations we look at the student-based card to see if we can make it easier on the students and give them other ways to frequent their favorite places on- and off-campus,” Francis said.
Francis added that more promotion is necessary to make sure customers know which restaurants are involved.
“We still think there’s some awareness opportunities, where even though we’ve got the sticker in our window … some people may not know that we accept the Eatblue card,” she said.
Wendy Shinde, owner of Great Wraps, on the 300 block of State Steet, said she was previously signed with Eatblue, but that the new meal plan card has not been used very frequently.
“In theory if they market the heck out of this and they get a lot of people signed up, and people start coming in to use it then that’s a different story,” Shinde said.
As of now, though, Shinde says that it won’t be worth keeping the new meal plan card in the long run.
“You’re supposed to pay a monthly fee for the machine, and when it comes to that, I’m going to say no, because right now … I’m getting like one per day,” Shinde said.