Bertucci’s Dismisses Two of MIT’s Offers To Accept TechCASH

Bertucci’s has declined two offers from MIT within the past two months to accept TechCASH at its popular location in Central Square, according to Undergraduate Association Dining Committee Chair Christopher K. Hoffman ’08.

A campus-wide survey conducted by the UA in the first week of November 2007 initially suggested Bertucci’s as one of two restaurants to be approached by MIT regarding TechCASH. According to Hoffman, Bertucci’s was the “overwhelming favorite” in the survey, with around 20 percent of students voting for it. The runner-up was the Pour House Bar and Grill in Boston, a popular restaurant for students.

Director of Enterprise Services John M. McDonald initially approached Bertucci’s over winter vacation with a standard TechCASH offer — similar to those presented to other off-campus vendors. According to Hoffman, the offer involves the purchasing of an additional card reader similar to a credit card reader, as well as the use of a phone line or internet connection. MIT would also charge a per-use fee, according to McDonald. “We typically negotiate with each vendor [the contract] and the fee used to cover the costs of our TechCASH system,” he said.

Bertucci’s declined both MIT’s initial offer and a second, improved offer, said Hoffman. Regarding the per-transaction fee in the second offer, Director of Campus Dining Richard D. Berlin III said, “We went as low as we could ever go.”

Bertucci’s was unavailable for comment.

“The fee wasn’t as much a stumbling block with Bertucci’s as the nights of operation,” said McDonald. Campus dining halls are least accessible on Friday and Saturday nights, which are already Bertucci’s busiest nights, according to McDonald. The UA survey was to identify dining options for students on nights when campus dining is unavailable, said Hoffman. Pour House is a very popular option for students on Saturday nights because of its half price burger promotion.

On Feb. 3, Hoffman asked the UA Senate and UA Dining Committee via e-mail to solicit letters from their respective constituencies asking Bertucci’s to accept TechCASH. Hoffman has since compiled several dozen letters from students and will be delivering them within the next two weeks.

“I think it’s a long shot at best,” commented Berlin, who described the entire negotiation process as an “uphill battle.” “It’s probably not going to happen because a good relationship is something that comes naturally,” he added. “We’ve made our arguments and talked to them about it, but it’s much easier for us to approve an outside vendor [who approaches us than] vice versa.”

Berlin has also approached Star Market on multiple occasions dating back to October 2003. Star Market and Bertucci’s may have similar reasons for refusing TechCASH, said Berlin. Berlin speculated that the infrastructure of Bertucci’s and Star registers may “back up to a central server, which may not synchronize with TechCASH technology.”

Berlin cited the recent addition of the Beacon Street Subway as a success story. The Subway at the intersection of Beacon St. and Massachusetts Ave. began to accept TechCASH on Monday, Feb. 11. According to Berlin, both the Beacon St. Subway and the store inside Lobdell Food Court are franchised to the same owner, and adding TechCASH to the Beacon St. Subway was part of the original contract between the Subway owner and MIT.

“If Bertucci’s doesn’t want it, then maybe one of its competitors does,” said Berlin. Negotiations are ongoing with Papa John’s in Somerville and look far more promising, since Papa John’s approached MIT as opposed to the other way around, said Berlin.

Once negotiations are complete and a contract is signed with any vendor, the rest of the process is very fast, said Hoffman.