Kellianne King: Coupons won’t solve J Street’s problems

I’m probably one of the few students who has yet to try a pretzel from Auntie Anne’s, the latest addition to our ever-changing campus dining hall, J Street.

It’s partly because I’m wary of developing the addiction others on campus already have. But mostly, it’s because I rarely eat at J Street.

For the past several years, J Street has tried everything in the book to boost its image, swapping out Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s for venues like Metro Diner and BONMi and launching a marketing campaign. Now, the food provider Sodexo is piloting a new smartphone app for a dozen universities that will offer discount deals and loyalty rewards to students.

The idea seems to be that maybe Sodexo can attract students’ attention with special offers.

It’s sad that the dining hall must resort to a rewards program that nearly amounts to bribery to attract students.

A rewards program is a half-hearted solution to the root of the problem: J Street meals are too expensive. Students pay for food at the buffet based on weight, making meals pricier than they would be with a per-meal swipe system, which other schools offer.

The Student Dining Board is also trying to create a GW-centric program similar to Groupon and LivingSocial, which would offer special deals for Sodexo-affiliated venues and GWorld partners. While students may score some savings with this latest marketing push, the Student Dining Board shouldn’t have to coax students into spending more time and money at their dining hall through what is basically a Living Social deal.

The University has tried to generate more excitement over J Street in recent years by offering expanded seating space and introducing healthier food options, but these attempts have gone largely unnoticed by students. J Street may never be a popular campus hub.

But the bottom line is, handing out coupons will not make students change their minds about J Street, especially when it’s less-than-stellar and high-priced.

If the University is concerned with increasing student interest in the dining hall, it has to realize that there is no bargain grand enough to cause students to forget issues like quality of food and high prices.

Kellianne King is a junior majoring in history.

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