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Updated 10:00 AM June 21, 2004



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League Buffet closes; new food concept to be offered in fall

The Michigan League Buffet—once a popular dining and gathering place for students but more recently a lunch spot patronized by fewer people—has closed. In the fall a new food service concept will take its place.

"We need to be able to change with the times," says Loren Rullman, director of the University Unions.

The buffet has been operating since the Michigan League opened in 1929, originally as a gathering spot for women students.

In recent years, overall customer counts at the League Buffet dropped, especially among students. As a result, financial losses have mounted, Rullman says.

For several years, the buffet, which recently only served lunch on weekdays, has lost more than $100,000 annually. One of the challenges of the past decade has been to find a way to get students to use the League more, he says.

The decision to close the buffet will allow University Unions to provide an alternative food and gathering spot, Rullman says. The plan is to replace the buffet with a high-quality food service that offers a limited menu—perhaps coffee and sandwiches—that will be open longer hours for students who are studying or those using wireless computers. Wireless service was installed in the League, Michigan Union and Pierpont Commons during the winter term. Rullman says the new food service likely will offer custom-made as well as grab-and-go meal options.

With the closing of the buffet, the following positions received reduction in force notices: manager, kitchen cleaner, cook, two food service workers, stock keeper and a service clerk. In addition, the job of an assistant food service worker in the Pierpont Commons Café was eliminated due to a decline in overall volume and food production.

"It has been very painful. Some employees have been with us for a long time, and even for those here a short time, it has been difficult," Rullman says.

University Unions must generate its own revenues to fund operating costs. Often in lean budget times, campus departments cut back on services, such as catered food and meeting room rental.

From fiscal year 2003 to 2005, University Unions has reduced its budget by approximately $1.6 million. Although budget cuts and declining revenues have resulted in reductions of more than $400,000 for FY05 and created the need to make a second $100,000 withdrawal from operating reserves, Rullman says he doesn't expect further reductions in staff or elimination of entire services for FY05.

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