Andrew Aude (Undergraduate Senate candidate)
- Candidate statement
I'm running for ASSU because I've spent 3 months researching Residential & Dining Enterprises to find that it's not performing to our expectations, it's wasting our money, and it's driving out retail competitors. Cal Dining now outranks ours.
Problems with Stanford Dining
Our board rate is $5,516 — priced 99th percentile nationwide. Where does that money go?
Money goes in the trash. Over 1.2M pounds of food is composted each year, and it's not even our fault. It is a problem with menu and recipe development. Food goes uneaten because it's just not satisfying our expectations, wants, and needs. I just learned that grad students literally dumpster-dive for leftover food each day. Not only is the food overpriced, but it's getting discarded uneaten. What a waste.
There's a problem with feedback/data-collection:
R&DE's Dining Survey has a low, 35% response rate. We can only take it during a 2-week period: midterms/dead week fall quarter. They don't incentivize taking the survey (not even for a few Meal Plan dollars). However, they will happily give you a T-shirt if you like them on Facebook. For R&DE, it seems that protecting a reputation is more important than gathering data needed to best-serve customers.
Previously, dining surveys asked what types of food you like to eat. R&DE removed many of the food-preference questions from the survey. They replaced them with political questions, such as how much you value "ethics and morality" and "social impact", as well as what you want to watch on the TVs in Arrillaga Family Dining Commons.
Data and feedback problems are not caused by our chefs or food workers. The problems stem from R&DE's poor executive leadership. They've opposed all requests to improve transparency, accountability, and performance. They've kept their performance metrics, budget, survey results, and even entire menus confidential. Considering that we pay $5,516/year, I think we have a right to verify whether or not our money is well-spent.
Specific things I want R&DE to do:
• Publish data on budget, waste, and survey results.
• Publish the entire 5-week "Core Menu" online so that students can vote on which entrees they like.
• Fix menu/recipe development such that items are well-tested in unit dining halls before being added to the campus-wide "Core Menu."
• Restore autonomy to the unit dining halls. This gives them ownership of their menu, so they can adjust it to satisfy student wants and needs. Differentiated menus increase satisfaction and reduce waste.
Competition to Hospitalities and Auxiliaries
Earlier this year, I was working to bring new vendors to Tresidder Union (namely Oren's Hummus, Curry Up Now, Umami Burger, and Freshroll). Making that happen is tough: R&DE Hospitality and Auxiliaries has 5-10 year leases on spaces within Tresidder Union, and none of them are expiring soon.
It's sad that we're stuck with R&DE's overpriced and underperforming retail cafes in the short term. It's unfortunate that R&DE Hospitalities and Auxiliaries enjoys Stanford's tax exempt status. R&DE generates its restaurant revenues completely tax-free. If the IRS were to classify this as "Unrelated Business Income" then it would be subject to the same 30-40% tax that normal businesses pay. No wonder it's so hard to compete with R&DE.
Worse yet, R&DE internally boasts that its retail cafes are profitable "despite rising competition on campus, such as in the Knight Management Center and Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center". Ike's lease expires in June, and R&DE is in a position to place a bid on it. Remember, R&DE runs on a $180M annual budget.
R&DE has at least one bartender on its payroll. Who pays for his salary, benefits, and HR costs? Are any of those costs paid from our board rate? If so, our parents, scholarship donors, and the Financial Aid Office should be aware of how their money is being spent.