MIT to ‘reconsider’ retail eateries in student center

Dining to implement TechSnacks, a ‘late-night, non-meal plan snack break,’ starting Sept. 27

MIT Dining plans to “reconsider” the retail eateries in the Stratton Student Center, MIT Dining Director Mark Hayes wrote in an email to The Tech. Most student center vendors do not have immediate plans for reopening. 

Dunkin’ Donuts reopened Sept. 22. Its franchisee, which also operates the Cambridge Grill, “is cautiously considering plans for reopening the Grill based on Dunkin’s volume in the coming weeks,” Hayes wrote. Anna’s Taqueria, Cafe Spice, Shinkansen, and Shawarma Shack remain closed. La Verde’s has not given MIT Dining “a timeline for their reopening.”

Hayes wrote that MIT Dining “will meet with La Verde’s and Anna’s Taqueria soon to discuss next steps, but there are no immediate plans to reopen more eateries in the Student Center.”

The W20 Dining Concepts Working Group, created in June 2019, “will be reconstituted soon to discuss a new vision for Student Center dining,” Hayes wrote, adding that the Student Center’s current vendors “will be reconsidered.” 

The working group’s charge writes that they may select potential vendors based on factors such as “affordable and nutritious menu options,” “strong connections to local producers and farms,” sustainability, menu options for students with dietary restrictions, and vendors’ “long term” investment in their operations through “continual operational upgrades, donations, and cooking classes.”

When the student center closed in March due to COVID-19, some staff members of the student center eateries “may have been laid off by their employer or reassigned to other locations the franchisee operates,” Hayes wrote, noting that the staff are employed by franchisees, not by MIT. MIT paid staff from Bon Appétit until May 22. 

Meal plan subscribers currently receive weekday breakfasts and lunches in Lobdell while brunches and dinners are served in residence halls. TechMart, MIT’s at-cost grocery, is open 9 a.m.–4 p.m. weekdays in the Student Center Coffeehouse Lounge, according to the MIT Dining Website FAQ

Hayes wrote that MIT Dining also plans to “enhance dining across the current dining system” by reopening the “residential dining and kitchen facilities” in Baker, Maseeh, McCormick, Next, and Simmons.  Resuming “food production in the houses” will “result in better meal variety and freshness.” 

Starting Sept. 27, Dining will implement TechSnacks, a “late-night, non-meal plan snack break” in each undergraduate residence hall 9–10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, featuring food for pickup such as sushi and Mediterranean snack boxes. Dining is also planning to introduce a themed “Fun Friday” lunch program beginning Oct. 2, “kicking off with a BBQ event in Lobdell,” Hayes wrote.  

MIT Dining staff and Bon Appétit management are committing to “visit the houses regularly” to “discuss quality, variety, and delivery” within the house and with student leaders and “engage diners consistently” for feedback, Hayes wrote.