Following negotiations, KAF to stay

by Marina Shkuratov | 9/16/14 8:00pm

KAF plans to keep largely the same food and beverage offerings.

Students used to a daily fix of brie and apple sandwiches, handmade marshmallows and skim milk mochas won’t have to adjust their eating habits after all, as King Arthur Flour’s Baker-Berry Library cafe will remain open, following negotiations with the College.

Director of retail operations John Tunnicliffe, who oversees the company’s locations on campus and in Norwich, said they worked with the College this summer to address limited on-site space and storage capacity, and are finalizing a new contract this fall that will take effect in 2015.

Representatives of both parties will meet at the end of the month to determine the length of the renewed lease and other details of the cafe’s working relationship with Dartmouth, said vice president of campus planning Lisa Hogarty, who has been involved in negotiations.

For the remainder of the fall, the cafe will operate under its existing contract with the College, Tunnicliffe said.

The College has no oversight over the cafe’s menu, so it can offer as many sandwich varieties as its managers deem appropriate, Tunnicliffe said. Offerings will remain essentially the same, he said.

Both Tunnicliffe and Hogarty said that King Arthur Flour’s greatest concern at the beginning of negotiations in June was the limited space in Baker-Berry library and how it compared to the cafe’s volume of business.

Calling King Arthur Flour’s previous library operating space “incredibly small,” Hogarty said the College has allotted them about 250 additional square feet, including expanded refrigeration space for milk and ice in the library’s basement and a closet on the library’s mezzanine where they can store dry goods and employees’ personal items. The change involved no major renovations, and King Arthur Flour’s rent has not increased.

The additional storage also allows King Arthur Flour to make fewer deliveries to its Baker-Berry location — two deliveries a day instead of three or four — alleviating difficulties associated with traffic and parking, Tunnicliffe said.

Fewer deliveries, he added, also allows King Arthur Flour to reduce its environmental footprint, which he said was a company priority.

Tunnicliffe called the discussions a “learning experience” for both parties.

During a visit to the company’s Norwich location, Hogarty said she and executive vice president and chief financial officer Rick Mills sought to understand the King Arthur Flour’s “pinch points” and plan for an evolving relationship with Dartmouth.

One potential change would involve adding more seating to the cafe area, likely in time for the winter term, Hogarty said.

Both King Arthur Flour and Dartmouth representatives were highly interested in keeping the cafe’s library location open, Tunnicliffe said.

“From an economic development perspective, the better all the businesses do, the better it is for the region,” Hogarty said. “Certainly, selfishly, an operation like this is fantastic for the Dartmouth community.”

When the Baker-Berry cafe opened for the term on Monday morning, Tunnicliffe said, students lined up and faculty members applauded.

“We feel like it’s a win for the College and it’s a win for us,” he said.

This summer, retail and cafe operations director Kelly Mousley said King Arthur Flour would likely close its campus location in December due to tension over whether the cafe could extend its menu offerings beyond coffee and pastries. Both Hogarty and Tunnicliffe, however, said no negotiations about the menu or competition with the Dartmouth Dining Services-operated Novack Cafe have taken place this year.

“I’m not clear on how that misinformation got out there,” Hogarty said. “As far as we’re concerned, the menu and the offerings that they’ve put out are excellent and are diversified and good for their business, which makes it good for us.”

The success of King Arthur Flour’s flagship cafe in Norwich, combined with the expanded library menu launched over a year ago, placed too great a strain on the company’s production capacity, so the company decided to scale back by removing sandwiches and other items, Tunnicliffe said. While its bottom line took a hit from the decision, the cafe could have continued operating with only coffee and pastries. Since the company began leasing spaced in White River Junction last year, however, it has restored the expanded menu.

KAF’s original contract with the College, which began in 2011, prevented the cafe from selling food, bottled beverages and other products that overlapped with those offered at Novack.

Of 30 students surveyed by The Dartmouth, 23 responded that they were extremely satisfied or satisfied that KAF is remaining open at the College, and six students said that they had a neutral reaction.

Only one respondent stated that he was extremely unsatisfied that the King Arthur Flour will continue operating on campus. This respondent, a male member of the Class of 2016, said that he would have liked to see King Arthur Flour replaced with a more affordable option.