By the end of first year, I knew I was done with University Dining forever. I simply couldn’t spend another year with the Newcomb salad bar or the O’Hill fries. I had heard about the Corner Meal Plan from a few people and know myself well enough to determine that I was going to be eating out more than cooking, so I bought the plan at the beginning of second year and haven’t looked back.
What is Elevate?
The Corner Meal Plan is run through a company called Elevate Meal Plan, which was started by two University graduates. Elevate has partnerships with off-campus restaurants at colleges across the East Coast. The founders of Elevate initially launched a catering company for Greek life organizations but wanted to expand their mission to create better food options for all University students and address the issues of both expensive meal plan costs and dissatisfaction with the traditional meal plan.
How does the money work?
Elevate is similar to a traditional meal plan in the sense that you buy a chunk of meals at once and then use them throughout your time at the University — they don’t expire until you graduate. You can choose between 45 meals for $499, 75 meals for $799 or 105 meals for $1099. If you do the math, the price per meal becomes less expensive the more meals you buy. The three plans break down into $10.28 per meal, $9.84 per meal and $9.66 per meal, respectively. The Semester 80 University Dining meal plan breaks down to about $10.75 per swipe — after you subtract the $350 plus dollars from the price up front, which is being generous — making Elevate a better deal per meal than the University Meal Plan with arguably much better food.
How does ordering work?
All you need to do to order on Elevate is open the website on your phone — unfortunately, there is not an app yet — choose your restaurant, choose your meal and place your order. Some restaurants allow for advanced ordering — which is basically takeout — meaning you can walk in and your food will be ready. However, most of the restaurants I use regularly don’t provide that, so you have wait in line with everyone else and then let them know that you ordered on Elevate. It is worth noting that Elevate does not include tip, so a few of the sit down restaurants are takeout only — Asado, Peloton Station, Oakhurst Inn Cafe — in order to combat this.
What restaurants are on Elevate?
There are over 20 restaurants on the Corner and beyond on Elevate, and you can easily see the full list on their website under University menus. Some of the most popular places include Roots, Corner Juice, Trinity and Revolutionary Soup. It is worth noting that most of these restaurants don’t have their full menu available on Elevate — there are a limited number of combos you can get from each place.
Which restaurants aren’t on Elevate?
Most of the more casual restaurants on the Corner are available on Elevate — in my opinion, the only surprising ones that are missing are Take it Away, Poke and The Virginian. Bodo’s also isn’t on Elevate, but it would hardly ever be worth it to use your $9-10 Elevate meal on a $4 bagel.
If you are debating between a University meal plan and Elevate, the pros are endless. Most obviously — it’s cheaper, and the food is better. If you live behind the Corner, it is also much more convenient than the dining halls, and in reality, the Corner is not that far from Central Grounds either. Even if you were never considering getting a University meal plan, there are still many benefits. Depending on the restaurant and which plan you get, it is possible to save $1 or $2 on each meal, which can definitely add up over time. Also, if you are working with your parents on developing a budget for food, this is a much simpler way to handle finances than having to figure out a way for them to reimburse you for constantly eating out. Buying Elevate is generally just a good way to budget and sets a restraint on the amount of money spent when you eat out. The meals also don’t expire until you graduate, and you are able to use as many as you want in any day.
The biggest con of Elevate is that it is not always worth your money. If you would only ever be buying meals that are less than around $9.80, then Elevate is obviously not for you. The other large con is that some restaurants, especially the more popular sit-down ones like Trinity, Revolutionary Soup and Armandos are only “open” on Elevate during certain hours — usually for lunch and not dinner. Also, as I mentioned before, some restaurants offer a more limited menu — I did have to change my Roots bowl of choice when I got Elevate.
If you are someone who is already often eating out on the Corner or debating purchasing a University Meal Plan, I would definitely suggest at least taking a look at the menus available on the Elevate website. In my opinion, once you go Elevate, you’ll never go back!