UAS Ensures Fair Prices For Campus Center Food

By Paul Dybas, UAS

University Auxiliary Services at Albany (UAS) is committed to providing University at Albany customers with the convenience of purchasing food and beverages on campus at reasonable prices.  As part of this commitment, UAS implements a price comparison procedure to ensure that approved prices and unit sizes are consistent, fair, and of good value.  Throughout the year, the Albany Student Dining and Advisory Committee (ASDAC) members conduct auditing exercises to assist UAS in monitoring prices and unit sizes.

In March, ASDAC reviews price comments documented in the customer comment database and identifies trends.  ASDAC then makes recommendations to UAS regarding which off campus locations should be used for the price comparison as well as which food items to purchase and analyze for unit size.  In June, UADS provides a list of all menu items, unit sizes, and recommended price changes to UAS.  The UAS student employee then compares all prices against the same items offered at competing off campus locations, the University Book Store, and University Vending Machines.  In addition, the items recommended by ASDAC for unit size comparisons are purchased from competitors and their ingredients are weighed.  Below is an example of the price and unit size data which was used to evaluate prices at Zepps.

Price Comparrison Chart

At the end of May the same comparison is done with all of the menus in the Campus Center Food Court.  Over a two month period,  a representative buys every menu item from all of the campus center locations and then buys that exact item from a local competitor that students would likely visit.  From this data the price comparison spreadsheet is updated which gives the unit prices of all the items compared at different locations.

The price adjustments are then evaluated by UAS with consideration for cost of living factors such as transportation, food, and labor.  Once prices are approved by UAS, UADS revises the menu boards and cash registers to reflect the price adjustments.  UAS staff reviews menu boards and cash register programming to ensure that prices have been revised accurately and that the new prices are implemented the week before classes begin.  Price changes on items in any on-campus dining venues are only permitted once per year and must be included in the annual price comparison.  New items introduced during the year must be sold for the manufacturer’s suggested retail price or get price approval from UAS. 

To become an ASDAC Mystery Shopper or for additional information regarding the Price Auditing and Price Comparison process please contact University Auxiliary Services at UAS@albany.edu