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Merchants on Points drops 4, adds 2

Students ordering their late-night study break meals will have to get used to a new roster of vendors this semester, as four establishments are no longer on the list and two new ones have been added.

 The Duke University Student Dining Advisory Committee decided not to renew contracts with La Fonte and Wild Bull's Pizza, co-chair Sean Biederman said. In addition, Cafe Parizade and Jimmy John's both decided to not renew their contracts, while Cinelli's and Torero's have joined the Merchants on Points program.

 Biederman cited contract violations, slow delivery and poor quality food as the reasons for removing La Fonte and Wild Bull's from the list.

 "Wild Bull's was calling people in their rooms, trying to solicit business by cold calling, and that's explicitly outlawed in the contract they'd signed to be a Merchant on Points," he said. "La Fonte was allowing students to swipe their cards in the store, which is a grievous error that could compromise the whole program. The idea is that transactions must take place on Duke's campus to allow Merchants on Points to operate."

 La Fonte manager Tony Khoshnevis said he misses being a Merchant on Points, because his restaurant was popular with many Duke students. Since his points service ended, delivery business has dropped off by 50 percent, he said.

 "[DUSDAC] told us that because the contract said we were not allowed to let students eat inside on points, and they don't like that, they took it away from us," Khoshnevis said. "A lot of students have called us, and they say they want to petition for us to be on points.... Every night they call us and ask us if we are on points. I might do that, if it's effective."

 Management at Wild Bull's could not be reached for comment. Since Jimmy John's came under the management of Fox Restaurant Ventures at the end of the summer, operating partner and area manager Dan Mall said the business decided to put its points status on hiatus in order to focus on improving the establishment.

 "[It's] mostly because we want to put money into improving the store--the facade of the store and the interior of the store," Mall said. "[The store] needs everything you can think of. The Duke points program is a little bit expensive. With the percentage they charge--18 percent--I wouldn't have that money to put back into the store." Mall added that Jimmy John's commitment to the Duke community drove the decision to stop delivering on points, and that they hope to reapply to DUSDAC in the future.

 "This is really for the students' benefit," he said. "[DUSDAC] thought it was pretty admirable that we're taking a hit in sales to better our store."

 Cafe Parizade, meanwhile, was not benefiting enough from delivering on points to justify remaining on the list, manager Igor Gacina said. The same company owns both Parizade and George's Garage, which is still a Merchant on Points.

 The two additions to the Merchants on Points list, Cinelli's and Torero's, are both establishments that students have patronized since their openings.

 "We tested [Torero's] at the end of last semester and they did real well," said Director of Dining Services Jim Wulforst. "The students' comments... have been positive, and the sales show that."

 Student feedback is an integral part of DUSDAC's review process, but while the committee reviews each on-campus eating establishment every year, the process for Merchants on Points has been less formal previously, Biederman said.

 "In the past, we've done interviews with students that have eaten at these places, done a standardized survey to find out about quality and speed," he said. "In the future we're going to continue that and we've started a process where we... can facilitate getting as much feedback as we can."

 Biederman added that the committee hopes to implement a more formal annual ranking system for Merchants on Points by the end of the year.


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