MIT Dining Announces Closure of Steam and Koch Cafés

Hayes: Closure due to “long-term financial issues that we could no longer ignore.”

The Steam and Koch Cafés, formerly located in Buildings 7 and 37 respectively, are permanently closing. In a statement to the Tech, Mark Hayes, Director of Campus Dining, said that Campus Dining “undertook several enhancements” to continue to make healthy food accessible across campus. 

Rationale for Closure

According to Hayes, the rationale for closing the two cafes stemmed from “long-term financial issues,” and Pulse Group’s dining review. The Pulse Group is an external market-research firm hired to examine the performance of seven eateries on campus, including the Steam and Koch Café. Hayes highlighted that the financial issues were something that MIT Dining “could no longer ignore.” 

The survey cited multiple challenges facing these retail eateries, among them “competition from the increasing number of off-campus food options adjacent to campus and the lingering effects of the pandemic.” Additionally, the study found that average monthly transactions at those seven MIT eateries “decreased by 42 percent between 2018 and 2022.” Hayes told the Tech that the cafés “had very low potential to increase usage” due to space constraints and the hybrid work schedules coming back from the pandemic. 

Worker Displacement and Relocation

Hayes also noted that MIT Dining and Bon Appetit were taking measures to help the displaced workers from the two cafes. He wrote that the “top priority was ensuring that there would be open positions within retail and house dining available to displaced staff.” According to the statement, six of the nine total staff formerly employed at the Steam and Koch cafes have found new positions with Bon Appetit. The three remaining workers, Hayes said, “are working with Bon Appetit and the Local 26 union representing dining workers to be placed into new roles.” 

New Dining Alternatives 

Hayes highlighted the “several enhancements” that MIT Dining has made to “make food more accessible, fresher, and tastier at campus eateries this fall.” On Sept. 12, five retail eateries within the Stratton Student Center will open, including Tawakal Halal Café. According to Hayes, these eateries were “selected by students to join CommonWealth Kitchen’s Launchpad.” 

Furthermore, Hayes stated that MIT Dining “hope[s] to announce a new grocery vendor that will take over the former LaVerde's space” in the Student Center. Hayes added that the Forbes Cafe in the Stata Center and Bosworth’s Cafe in Lobby 7 have added new menu items that reflect global tastes and locally sourced goods. Hayes emphasized the convenience of these items and their costs, some of which are below ten dollars. 

MIT Dining at Large

In his statement, Hayes wrote that MIT Dining intends “to make sustainable, long-term changes to house dining that are responsive to community feedback.” Similar to the Pulse Group survey, Hayes says that “a house dining program review with a consultant” will begin this fall “to gather student input, assess food service needs, and identify opportunities for improvement aimed at balancing quality, cost, access, and financial constraints.” Hayes emphasized the importance of faculty, staff, student leaders, and other stakeholders as “thought partners” throughout the process. 

The present meal plan structure was originally developed in 2019: however, the pandemic led to delays in full implementation until February 2022.