For LSA junior Kelly Holcomb-Densmor, the dining halls on campus
just don’t satisfy her eating habits because she’s
never around during dining hours.

Laura Wong
(BRETT MOUNTAIN/Daily)

To serve students such as Holcomb-Densmor, the Off-Campus Meal
Plan, an alternative to the traditional university meal plans, has
sprung up on college campuses across the nation. The Off-Campus
Dining Network, not affiliated with any university, is sponsoring a
renewable debit card that students can use at participating
restaurants in Ann Arbor in the fall term.

The Off-Campus Meal Plan allows students and parents to add a
customized amount to the card or select one of their preset
spending options. There is a one-time $25 enrollment fee for
joining the program, but a current promotion will waive the fee if
students sign up before May 7.

Currently, 11 restaurants have joined the program, including
Cottage Inn Pizza, Our Town Coffee House, Raja Rani, Papa
John’s Pizza and Quiznos Classic Subs have agreed to
participate.

Thomas Deloge, director of operations for the network, said the
program gives students a “dollar-to-dollar value” at
restaurants. He mentioned that at some schools the same sandwich
from the same shop costs more on campus than off campus.

“It gives students a better value (than traditional meal
plans) because the money transfers over from semester to semester
and year to year,” Deloge said.

The program currently has 5,000 cardholders across the country
and is in place for Michigan State University. The plan hopes to
have about 30 participating eateries and other Ann Arbor area
merchants join the program before the fall term.

“We (would) have a featured restaurant of the week.
Cardholders (would) get a discount at these restaurants,”
Deloge said. He also said that at other campuses, local merchants
give students discounts when presenting the card at the time of
purchase.

Chad Maki, manager of Papa John’s said he expects to see
an increase in student business with the restaurant’s
involvement in the program, “especially on Sundays when the
dining halls don’t have dinner.”

Deloge said research indicates that University students wanted
to see an expansion of Entrée Plus — the
University’s own debit card system — to locations off
campus.

Housing spokesman Alan Levy said Entrée Plus will not be
extended to off-campus eateries because of contractual
obligations.

Levy added that he doesn’t expect the meal plan to
“have much impact on the on-campus meal plan
program.”

“It’s good for students to have other
options,” he said. Levy also said there was “no
difficulty in seeing this (program) available to
students.”

Some students expressed interest in the meal plan. “That
would be really cool and helpful, since dining hall hours
don’t cover hours that I’m available,”
Holcomb-Densmor said. She added that she would be able to choose
what she wanted to eat instead of settling for the day’s
menu.

LSA junior Umang Malhotra said she also liked the idea of the
program but said more fast food places should be included instead
of sit-down restaurants. She also suggested incorporating
“smaller places where people go often, like
Starbucks.”

Students can sign up for the meal program online at
www.ocdn.com, pick up mail-in brochures that are at participating
restaurants or call 888-512-DINE.

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