By Adam Baker/News editor
With the swipe of a card, students can now charge their meals at off-campus restaurants throughout the Richmond area. A special account offered by Off Campus Access, Inc., a Virginia-based company not associated with the university, is available now.The company began advertising last year for the new program called the Colonel Meal Plan. According to Off Campus Access Regional Director Mike Dolezal, the company provides similar meal plans to 23 colleges nationwide.
Dolezal stated Eastern’s version of the service was launched Aug. 20.
“Students were able to use their card the first day of classes,” he said. “In the future students will be able to use their card whenever restaurants are open.”
The Colonel Meal Plan acts much like an ordinary debit card. Students may choose from four different start-up plans. As stated on the Colonel Meal Plan Web site, the plans range from $1200 for the “average eater” to $300 for the “occasional eater.”
After activating the account and receiving the Colonel Meal Plan card from Off Campus Access, students can leave their wallets behind and dine at participating area restaurants without worrying about carrying cash. Additional funds may be added to the account at any time and the balance rolls over from semester to semester and year to year.
Dolezal said the launch of the new program has been “successful.”
“The response so far has been very positive,” he said. “We had a couple hundred students sign up over the summer and since move-in weekend we’ve had a few dozen students signing up each day.”
According to Dolezal, 19 Richmond area restaurants presently accept the new card.
He explained the company is continuing its efforts to recruit additional dining establishments. The company plans to add new participants each week.
“If students want a particular restaurant they should e-mail or call us and also tell the restaurant owner,” he said.
Jodi Millsamp, service manager at O’Charley’s, said O’Charley’s has been accepting the new card for about a week and a half.
“Hopefully (the Colonel Mean Plan) will bring in more students being that we’re right down the street from the campus,” she said. “Obviously a lot of times (students) don’t have a lot of extra cash but seeing as their parents can put some money on the card for them, hopefully it will bring them out a lot more to our establishment.”
Millsamp said O’Charley’s has processed five or six of the new cards since the start of the program, adding she hopes more students will participate as the semester progresses.
Don Rue, one of the owners of the Subway located on the Eastern Bypass said his establishment has processed about eight orders using the new Colonel Meal Plan card.
“We’ve had it (the Colonel Meal Plan) set up for awhile,” Rue said. “Really the first one (Colonel Meal Plan customer) was soon after the students came back.”
Rue explained one problem with the new card is students do not understand the program is separate from the on-campus meal plan offered by the university.
“We’re getting a whole lot of confusion right now from people that seem to think they can use their student ID,” he said. “We had to actually turn some people away because they didn’t have a way to pay.”
Dolezal said he understands there may be confusion about the new program, but expects it to decrease as students become more familiar with it.
“Obviously when a program is new there may be some confusion,” he said. “Our goal is to minimize that confusion.”
The list of restaurants participating in the new off-campus service ranges from grills to various specialty and fast food establishments. For a complete listing of current restaurants participating in the Colonel Meal Plan, visit the company’s Web site at www.colonelmealplan.com.
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