A new meal plan is here to rescue UNC students from searching for a seat at Lenoir Dining Hall and instead, into the comfort of 21 Franklin Street restaurants.
Elevate Meal Plan, launched on Jan. 10, allows students to pre-purchase meals on Franklin Street for a reduced cost. After launching on six other college campuses, Elevate hopes to bring Chapel Hill students an alternative option to the plans offered by Carolina Dining Services.
Elevate, co-founded by University of Virginia graduates Seth Kramer and Josh Cohen, enables students to purchase meals similar to a typical meal plan. Instead of swiping into the dining hall, students can order their meals from the Elevate app.
While Elevate does have an upfront cost, each restaurant offers a condensed menu that aims to give students the most value for their dollar. Students could save more than $200 per year, according to Elevate Meal Plan’s website. A small package of 45 meals costs $9.79 per meal, while a larger package of 105 meals costs $9.09 per meal. The typical savings per meal averages from about $1 to $2.
Unlike the CDS meal plan, Elevate rolls over each semester rather than expiring. Students can also treat their friends and family to a meal without restrictions.
Students can purchase from a number of Chapel Hill favorites such as Cosmic Cantina, Time-Out and Hibachi & Co.
“One of the reasons we chose UNC to expand to is that we saw so many amazing restaurants on Franklin Street that people really enjoy going to,” Kramer said.
Restaurants have control over their own Elevate menus and can create Elevate-exclusive specials. Many restaurants offer meals for those who follow special diets, especially Vegan Flava Cafe and Soul Cocina.
Kramer and Cohen said local businesses in their other locations have seen benefits from their alternative meal plan, but they declined the release of the numbers that show how much local businesses working with Elevate actually grow.
“We have seen and heard from restaurants that have gotten a ton of value from partnering with Elevate,” Cohen said. “There's a few restaurants, for example, that normally aren't open during certain hours, but they open their kitchen just to accept Elevate orders because they realized how much more business they were getting.”
Members can use Elevate any time a restaurant is open. This means that students can use their meals for late night munchies at Time-Out, or even during summer break. According to the website, this also means restaurants can refuse Elevate orders for any reason, including game days.
Students are the target of the plan, but faculty, staff and the general public are eligible to purchase meals from their most frequented restaurants.
"Our marketing is definitely targeted toward students,” Kramer said. “But if a professor wanted to buy a meal plan or somebody who happens to live in the area, it’s definitely open for everyone who wants to use it.”
Cohen and Kramer said they aim to reduce the boring and repetitive nature of meal plans, but UNC also works toward this same goal. Many CDS meal plans come with PLUS Swipes or Dining Flex which allow students to explore a variety of on-campus restaurants, several of them local.
“Serving both on-campus students as well as off-campus students, CDS recognizes the importance of offering a variety of options, especially local, which is evident with our recent additions of Merritt's Grill, CholaNad, Port City Java, BurritoBowl and Freshens Smoothies,” said Olivia James, communications manager for campus enterprises, in an email to The Daily Tar Heel.
UNC sophomore Hayley Sutt said that while her friends were interested in Elevate, she has some reservations about the plan.
“I think it’s kind of cool, and I’ve heard a lot of friends liking it and wanting to do it,” Sutt said. “Franklin Street has better food and more options. But also, I think that meal plans are just kind of silly because I would rather just spend my money when I want to spend my money.”