McDonald's: Restaurant before students

Corporation vows to unveil healthier menu

The McDonald's Corporation's presentation Friday clarified some issues concerning the expiration of the McDonald's contract in the spring of 2007 but also brought new concerns to Residential Programs and Services directors and the Meal Plan Committee. \nConsequently the committee decided to postpone voting on whether or not to recommend that RPS renew the contract until its Oct. 28 meeting so that it can gather more feedback from students. \nRPS had wanted to become a franchise owner if it decided to renegotiate the contract, mainly because it would benefit the University financially. McDonald's representatives, however, told RPS they would not allow it to become a franchise owner because RPS's primary interest would be IU students and not McDonald's, and because they only allow individuals to be franchise owners. They also said that they ask a lot out of franchise owners, including a 25 percent investment and a minimum of one year of participation in a training program. \n"It made me nervous that they said our first interest would have to be McDonald's," said Sam Scarpino, the chairman of the Meal Plan Committee and a vice president of the Residence Hall \nAssociation.\nMcDonald's representatives clarified some of the \nUniversity's questions, including those about health concerns, by discussing McDonald's community involvement, variety of menu options and the fact that it encourages consumers to have a "Balanced Active Lifestyle" by listing nutrition facts, displaying health brochures and offering alternative healthier menu options. \nIf the contract would be renegotiated, McDonald's representatives said that they want to try to offer grilled chicken items and a fuller menu. Because this would require more grill space, they would need to expand the facility in Read, which would be an approximately $145,000 investment for McDonald's.\nIn a lengthy discussion following the presentation, the Meal Plan Committee decided it needed more feedback from students in order to make a vote. Though everyone involved with the committee agreed they were neither trying to push McDonald's out nor keep it, they were still concerned about McDonald's primary interests in itself and the terms that would be renegotiated if the contract were renewed. They emphasized that students have to be the first priority of any dining option.\nMcDonald's Corp. would want to renew the contract for another 10 years, whereas other food chains may be willing to renew every three to five years. A shorter contract may be more beneficial to both RPS and students since no one can guarantee students would want the same restaurant for another 10 years. \nScarpino noted that financial concerns should be considered as well. The committee discussed the fact RPS receives only 10 percent of every meal point dollar spent at McDonald's, yet approximately 12 percent of every meal point dollar spent at each dining facility on campus, including McDonald's, goes to the overhead cost of running all of the dining facilities. Thus, RPS essentially loses 2 percent from every McDonald's meal point sale.\nThe committee is also unsure the facility in Read could be expanded. Scarpino suggested it would be best to consider which restaurants could offer the broadest menu in the space that is available, which would require more research into available options and students' opinions.\nResidence hall presidents will make lists of what qualities students want in a restaurant, such as types of food offered, as well as lists of actual restaurant suggestions and present each list at Wednesday's Presidents' Council meeting. At the next Meal Plan Committee meeting, members of the committee will look at the lists and vote on which restaurants to pursue.\nScarpino said he is unsure what they will find out from students, but once again emphasized the importance of student feedback.\n"I don't have any idea what we're going to hear until we hear it," he said. "That's why it's so important to get student response -- to know what students want"

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