Frank Confronts Deficit

In response to a persistent budget deficit at Frank Dining Hall, Pomona College Dining Services has hired a consulting firm to recommend changes to dining hall operations. The consulting firm, Maryland-based Porter Khouw Consulting (PKC), led focus groups last week to gauge student opinion.

“There’s a gap in how much revenue is generated
and what the expenses are to run dining,” Dean of Campus Life Ric Townes said. “That has to be

According to Townes, there has been an annual deficit of around $500,000 for the past three years. To address the deficit, Pomona began closing Frank on Fridays and Saturdays in spring 2012, which cut the gap approximately
in half but did not eliminate the deficit entirely.

Townes said that such a disparity between generated
revenue and expenditures exists because there are more students from Pomona who go to eat at the other 5C dining halls than there are students from other campuses coming to eat at Pomona. 

“Living on North Campus, it is much more
convenient to go to Frary [Dining Hall], or brave a few more minutes to go to Scripps or CMC,” Jackie Ching PO ’14 wrote in an email to TSL.
“Unless I have arranged to dine with others, I spend most of my meals up

The college held focus groups on Pomona’s North and
South Campuses to allow students to discuss ways that Frank could draw more students
from North Campus as well as from other campuses. 

David Porter, the CEO of PKC, led the focus
group on South Campus over a dinner on April 1 at Frank. 

“There was a good turnout at the Frank focus
group,” First-Year Class President Peter Kim PO ’17 wrote in an email to TSL. “Students, especially first-years,
were eager to voice their opinions to improve Frank dining hall.” 

According to Kim, students at the meeting generally
advocated for fresher and higher-quality foods, consistency in the quality of food, more options, and, specifically, smoothies. Students also emphasized that they find the dining hall staff at Frank very welcoming.

But costs must be cut, Townes said.

“It’s going to probably be painful in parts
somewhere,” Townes said. “That somewhere
has not been defined.”   

Pomona has three dining
halls—Frank, Frary, and Oldenborg Dining Hall—whereas each of the other 5Cs just has one. According to Townes, closing Frank down altogether to cut costs is not under consideration.

“Is it
about the numbers?” Townes said. “No, it’s not. Is it about the culture at Pomona? Absolutely.”

Townes described the four main ways that Pomona encourages first-years to meet and interact with their classmates: the
Sponsor Program, the Orientation Adventure, the Critical Inquiry writing course,
and eating meals at Frank. 

“Frank felt very homey with its family booths
and round tables,” Ching wrote. “Especially
when you were with good company.”  

Several other students said that they appreciate the atmosphere at Frank. 

“One of the advantages
of Frank is that there’s always someone you know to eat with, and we all know
the friendly dining hall workers personally,” Alyse Winchester PO ’17 said. 

Moreover, many diners, particularly first-year students, often choose Frank over other options.

“Something special happens in Frank, and we
can’t lose that,” Townes said. “At the
end of the day, I don’t think you could put a price on how important that
experience is.”

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