Under the present efficient management, a new era has dawned in the history of the Harvard Dining Association. As is well known, the price of board charged on the winter term bills-$3.90 per week-is the lowest that has yet been reached. At this time, therefore, a resume of the business history of the hall is particularly fitting.
The fluctuations of the price of board can be seen from the table below, which gives the prices charged on the successive term bills from the establishment of the present association.
1874-5 Average for the year. $4.54
1875-6 $4.50 $4.80 $5.00
1876-7 4.80 4.50 4.15
1877-8 4.10 4.00 4.00
1878-9 4.00 4.00 4.20
1879-80 4.10 4.10 4.24
1880-1 4.40 4.40 4.60
1881-2 5.00 5.00 4.54
1882-3 4.46 4.58 4.40
1883-4 4.16 4.10 4.10
1884-5 4.00 3.90
The price of board is so to speak a function of two variables; the quality of board and the number of boarders. This latter determines the price much more effectually than the former, but it is itself regulated by the former. The great question, which the present steward has solved so successfully, is how to satisfy the great number of men who join the association every September, so that they will remain throughout the year. In order to accomplish this end a high standard of board must be firmly maintained. In doing this, however, care must be taken not to make the board so expensive that many will seek cheaper places, for a high price as well as poor quality will result in diminished numbers. Thus the steward is under two constant pressures; one forcing him to at least maintain the established standard, and the other to lower the price of board. The desired standard must be sufficiently high to satisfy the richer and more fastidious, and the price sufficiently low to meet the resources of those in poorer circumstances. Mr. Sullivan has succeeded, in a great measure, in establishing and maintaining this standard, and has thereby kept the Hall well filled.
There was a penny wise and pound foolish policy that was followed at Memorial in years past. It consisted in saving expense by lowering the standard, and thereby driving away boarders. This is diametrically opposed to the policy now in vogue. Good board and many boarders make lower prices, than less expensive board and few boarders.
The connection between the price of board and the number of members in the association can be seen from the following figures, compiled from the Auditor's monthly reports:
OCT. NOV. DEC.-JAN. FEB. MARCH. APRIL. MAY.
1879-80 $4 10 3 99 3 96 4 20 4 25 4 13 4 30
3555 2802 5010 2413 2544 2202 2392
1880-1 $4 62 4 29 4 15 4 64 4 50 4 46 4 68
2936 2733 4824 2040 2302 1994 2150
1881-2 $4 72 4 80 4 90 5 43 5 33 4 35 4 73
2840 2306 4098 1427 1527 1656 2022
1882-3 $4 25 4 62 4 28 4 68 4 66 4 47 4 55
3243 2669 4864 2189 2858 2043 2281
1883-4 $4 16 4 10 3 89 4 21 4 19 4 16 4 17
3391 2850 5585 2774 2935 2499 2800
1884-5 $3 97 4 01 3 74 4 10 3 91
3870 3100 5890 2810 3108
The figures in the second row of each set are the total number of weeks in the month; i. e. the number of members multiplied by the average number of weeks of membership.
The figures in the first table show the prices at which it has been possible for members of the university to board at Memorial. These figures do not, however, represent the actual prices paid by students for board.
The order system has now become an established feature in the regime of the Hall. It gives elasticity to the fare, and is a very important agent in keeping the seats at the many tables permanently occupied. This order system has grown to immense proportions during the last four years. Several hundred orders are now sent down and filled at a single meal. While there are very few who do not indulge in an extra now and then, the regular patrons of this system are those who do not care if the price of board rises above $4.50. These are the men who formerly went to outside private tables after a few weeks at Memorial. They are now inclined to remain in the Hall, and thereby materially aid in making a low price for regular board possible.
The present steward has taken great pride in the order list. Having had a long experience at the Grand Union in Saratoga, he is able to equal the best hotel fare in this department. The prices of the extra orders are kept nearly at cost, and the slight profit received from them helps to reduce the price of board. Thus the order system aids in raising the quality of board and in lowering the price.
In order to show how this order system has grown, the following figures have been gathered through the courtesy of the Auditor. This table shows the average amount spent by each man per week for extras.
OCT. NOV. DEC.-JAN. FEB. MARCH. APRIL. MAY.
1879-80 .19 .28 .30 .34 .49 .41 .57
1881-2 .18 .27 .33 .39 .40 .42 .60
1882-3 .26 .35 .35 .39 .43 .51 .62
1883-4 .28 .42 .42 .49 .55 .59 .60
1884-5 .31 .45 .53 .66 .75
Upon examning this table, at first thought it seems as if the quality of the regular board must have been lowered in the last two years, and that thereby men have been driven to the order list. The candid opinion of boarders who can remember '82-3, will, however, refute this supposition. The board has been continually improved during the last two years. Mutton stew and beef stew are both nightmares of the past. Substantial dinners and wholesome lunches are assured facts. No one can for a moment claim that poor board has been the cause for this increasing tendency to order extras. The low price has been one cause for this fact. Everyone will order more readily if he feels that the normal price-$4.00-has been reached. This growth of the order system proves that the richer students are gradually becoming permanent members of the association. If one chooses to pay $7.00 or $8.00 a week for board, he can obtain as good, if not better, food for that money at Memorial than at any small private boarding place. He also has a far greater variety from which to order at Memorial than at other places. That the Dining Association has grown in the opinion of the richer students is shown by the fact that in the past winter several men have left more expensive boarding places for the Hall, and have expressed themselves as highly pleased with the change.
There are many improvements in the fare and service of Memorial that can still be made. The remarkable readiness of the steward to act on the slightest suggestion, and the activity of the members of the present Board of Directors give good grounds for prophesying that as new improvements are suggested, they will receive due attention.