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Soon the Corner Meal Plan may be reaching far beyond the confines of University Avenue and West Main Street.

The Corner's alternative to University meal plans, which has been catering to students for seven years, is putting the gears in motion to turn into a nationwide corporation.

"The Corner Meal Plan is in the process of franchising nationally through a parent company called Meal Ticket," Corner Meal Plan President Kent Schwager said.

In its efforts to establish itself as a national company, the Corner Meal Plan has hired Charles Carroll as their Director of Franchise Development.

"Our goal has always been to make an alternative meal plan available to all colleges. Since people are interested, we've decided to franchise our company," Carroll said.

Carroll said he mainly wanted to take on the assignment because he felt the Corner Meal Plan has great potential profit as a franchised company due to its large success among University students.

"Charlottesville has been a model operation for this business to grow ... there is an overwhelming response there," he said.

Schwager agreed.

"The students like the restaurants, and almost all the restaurants stay on for long-term contracts," he said.

With the University as a model, Carroll and Schwager hope that many franchisees sign contracts to start there own Corner Meal Plan programs.

"We expect to have 50 franchisees within the next two years. Some are ready to sign up now," Carroll said.

With estimates such as these, the Charlottesville Corner Meal Plan office will have to prepare for some changes.

"Charlottesville would be the headquarters for a national company making millions of dollars per year. It is already thinking of growth and expansion, and they are prepared to bring in as much staff as needed if they become a national organization," Carroll said.

The Corner Meal Plan at the University could profit in such large volumes due to the percent of sales they are guaranteed from local franchisees.

In addition the Corner Meal Plan's proposed national expansions, it is also expanding locally. Beginning in the fall, students signed up with the plan also can dine at Sam's Kitchen, Anything Goes, and all three Papa John's locations. Also new to the program is a plan made exclusively for first-year students.

"We have a new first-year plan where if they sign up they get 10 percent added to their total balance," Schwager said.

Other perks with the plan include a package of $100 in coupons, and free video rentals from their new office located at 17 Elliewood Avenue across from the Biltmore Grill.

"Most people don't know about the video rentals, but at our new office they are located up front in the customer service area," Schwager said.

Schwager, like Carroll, said he feels expanding The Corner Meal Plan nationally is a smart move in light of its practicality in a college setting.

"I think carrying the card around is good versus cash as a safety issue. Students also like to check their account balances, add money, and sign up for an account over the Web. The itemized bill is good too because you have the option of sending it home to your parents ... and we accept second party checks." Schwager said.

Many University students are thankful for the Corner Meal Plan as an alternative to the dining halls.

"As a Corner Meal Plan cardholder for three years, I think you can get better food, often cheaper, at a wider variety, with delivery service, and if you are a fourth year a percentage of it goes towards your class. It's also nice to stop off at a place like Cafe Europa that has quality sandwiches and salads when you are tired of mac and cheese," 1999 College graduate Kari Footland said.

But some students do not see the value in the plan.

"I don't have the Corner Meal Plan because it's too expensive to eat at restaurants and its too easy to spend it," fourth-year student Laura Hartman said.

Overall, Schwager said he hopes the expansion plans for the Corner Meal Plan business will help the Charlottesville community.

"We are franchising out to ACC schools in particular to bring money back to Charlottesville," he said.

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