UT meal plans could impact Cumberland Ave. businesses

In the fall of 2015, the University of Tennessee will introduce some big changes to students' meal plans.

All first-year undergraduate students who live on campus will be required to purchase a meal plan. All other students who take six or more credit hours will have to purchase a minimum of $300 Dining Dollars each semester.

Previous: UT considers dining plan changes

If the money isn't used, it can be fully refunded, or rolled over to become "All Star" dollars, which can be used at Cumberland Avenue restaurants or to buy books, supplies, apparel, and vending at campus facilities.

"So essentially, it is up to UT Dining Services to earn those dollars from our students by being the most accessible, appealing, and affordable option that best serves our students' needs," said UT Media Director Karen Simsen in a press release.

She said adding those Cumberland Avenue restaurants will allow students to use their meal plans all year long, since parents can add funds into student's All-Star accounts. UT will work with a vendor to establish those partnerships with merchants on the Strip.

Simsen said UT is still working to find a vendor for the program.

Autumn Faircloth works as a bartender at the Tin Roof on the Strip. She said she believes UT's move could benefit Cumberland Avenue businesses.

"I think that giving students this other option, that they can use dining dollars, something they've already paid money for, could make a huge difference," she said.

But, not all businesses are on board with the idea. Gerald Nelson operates Gus' Good Times Deli. He said he believes the transaction between a vendor and small business could take too long.

"There's times when someone comes in with a purchase, [and] it has to go through channels and it just takes us longer to get our money back," he said.

UT is also adding more dining choices for students in the coming years.

The Fred D. Brown Residence Hall and the Cumberland Avenue location (at the corner of 17th street) will open in August 2014. Next spring, the first phase of the Student Union will open, and UT said that will double the seating capacity and food options of the current University Center.

More: UT plans to replace 6 existing dorms with new ones by 2019

UT said they will have even more food choices on campus over the next 5 to 10 years, including a full-service dining hall in the new residence hall on the site of the former Gibbs Hall. It will have 750 seats and offer a fresh-food concept for all students, faculty, and staff.

Down the road, the Presidential Court dining facility will open as part of the new village community of residence halls that will replace Presidential Court.


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