University introduces variety to meal plan with three new locations

University introduces variety to meal plan with three new locations
A student walks into Shafer Court Dining Center. The dining center is home to Market 810, Shake Smart and Einstein Bros. Bagels. Photo by Alessandro Latour

Katharine DeRosa, News Editor

Although senior theater performance major Kellie Bolden doesn’t have a meal plan this year, she vividly remembers her freshman year diet: Raising Cane’s, Panda Express and Bleecker St. Now, freshmen have more options available with the addition of two new student dining locations.

The two new locations, Steak ‘n Shake and Za’atar, are set to open in “late fall,” according to VCUDine spokesperson Anna Obermiller. Steak ‘n Shake offers diner-style food, such as burgers, fries and milkshakes, and Za’atar focuses on halal-certified Greek food. Both menus can be found at

Although Bolden said she’s never been to a Steak ‘n Shake restaurant, she often drives by one in Richmond.

“It was always thumping when I would pass, so I think if they keep up to the standard of normal Steak ‘n Shake, it’ll be good,” Bolden said. “I think it’ll be a hit.”

Senior theater performance major Calvin Graves expressed excitement over Za’atar opening, and said he is a fan of Greek food. He said the location reminds him of restaurants close to campus, such as Roots Natural Kitchen, a made-to-order salad bar close to campus. 

“If they take swipes, people will go there instead of Roots,” Graves said.

Both locations will offer swipe exchanges during all hours of operation, however the items available for swipe exchange are still being decided, according to Obermiller.

Steak ‘n Shake is set to replace the campus Taco Bell and Za’atar is set to replace Freshii, a soup, salad, wrap and burrito restaurant — both located in the University Student Commons. Bolden said she thinks Za’atar will be an effective replacement for Freshii.

“As long as it’s like a refreshing thing, I think it’ll do well enough for it to stay,” Bolden said. “Because there are a lot of heavy fast food places around here.”

Although Bolden is not on the meal plan, she intends to take advantage of the new dining locations.

The university’s new engineering building received a culinary upgrade. VCU recently opened a satellite Au Bon Pain location in the new building, known as Au Bon Pain Café: Ram Bytes. Students can swipe for a variety of entrees with a side and a drink, but some entrees require two swipes. The Grace Street location has a larger variety of entrees including vegetarian salads, grilled cheese sandwiches and breakfast sandwiches. 

A student favorite, Bleecker St., boasts three locations this semester. Last spring, the university opened a new location inside of Market 810 at the Shafer Court Dining Center. Another location of the restaurant is reopening in its original home in Snead Hall. The student dining hall located on MCV, Jonah’s Culinary Emporium, also has a Bleecker St. station.

All students living in Brandt, Johnson, Rhoads, Gladding Residence Center III, the Honors College and Gladding Residence Center are required to purchase one of three meal plans: a premium swipe plan with unlimited swipes into Market 810 and Avo Kitchen, a 250-swipe plan or a 200-swipe plan, according to VCU’s 2021-2022 dining brochure. 

The premium swipe plan was added to the university’s budget this semester and costs $2,910. Students with this plan have unlimited swipes into Market 810 and Avo Kitchen, 12 swipe exchanges per day, 20 guest swipes to use on family or friends and $225 dining dollars.

Both the 250-swipe-plan and 200-swipe-plan come with $225 dining dollars to spend during the semester. The 250-swipe-plan costs $2,570 and the 200-swipe-plan costs $2,331.

Individual swipes were averaged at $10.05 each in the 2020-2021 dining brochure. This year’s information was not included in the 2021-2022 brochure. 

When requested, VCUDine did not provide the information regarding the value of one swipe for this school year, as of Tuesday. 

VCUDine also hosts a variety of special events for students throughout the year, including Midnight Breakfast, Basketball Watch Parties and Guest Restaurants inside of Market 810, according to the dining brochure

Students can purchase meal plans online through VCUDine for the fall semester until Dec. 22.

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