You Are What You Eat: DDS and KAF
Before King Arthur Flour and Novack Café opened as dining options in Baker-Berry Library, only Baker existed on Dartmouth’s campus. Studio art and engineering professor Jack Wilson is an architect who previously worked in the College’s planning office. Wilson told the story of Baker-Berry’s conception, explaining that in the 1980s Baker library underwent a reconfiguration, adding Berry to the existing library. The special collections library, previously housed in Baker, moved to Webster Hall, now Rauner Special Collections Library. This allowed for more space to accommodate the merging of library computing services and the former Kiewit Computing Center building, located where Carson Hall now stands.
The lobby of Baker used to feature a card catalog for locating books, but with the advent of online cataloging, the College decided to use the space to feature exhibition cases. Even with the new exhibition space, there was still concern that the space was being underutilized. The conception of the first café in the library, Novack, provided a new service to students, faculty and staff. The space in the library that is now occupied by KAF used to be a newspaper reading room and was attached to the periodicals room which is still there today.
John Tunnicliffe, managing director of the King Arthur Flour Company who oversees KAF’s Norwich operations and Baker-Berry café, explained how KAF came to the library. Upon seeing the success of Novack Café, Dartmouth sought to meet the increasing need for food services in the library, with KAF becoming a permanent library resident in 2013.
With the presence of a food option other than Dartmouth Dining Services, one would assume that there would be competition between the two entities.
“We certainly value what Novack does, but in terms of what we offer and the product we offer, we’re not necessarily looking outward to what the other offerings are on campus,” Tunnicliffe said.
David Newlove, associate vice president of business and hospitality at Dartmouth, who manages DDS, said that DDS and KAF do not compete. DDS is solely in charge of costs and passing on the budget to the senior administration. He added that while KAF functions as a typical business with normal hours and vacations, DDS is open year round for the undergraduate community and during interims for the athletes and others still on campus.
Although the two entities claim to have no competition with each other, students tend to have a preference. On campus, KAF presents a wide assortment of high quality drinks with a menu ranging from hot chocolate to espresso shots to chamomile lemon tea to chocolate milk. Likewise, KAF’s pastry and sandwich menu also has a large variety of items including cupcakes, ham and cheese croissants, brioche rolls and brie and apple sandwiches. Many will agree that although constrained, KAF draws a lot of business and receives positive reviews. DDS, not to be outcompeted by KAF, offers a diverse selection of food options as well, with Courtyard Café, Collis Café, the Class of 1953 Commons, Novack Café and snack bars in the housing communities. Students have quite a spectrum of opinions on DDS and KAF concerning pricing, variety and how they could be improved. For example, Hollye Swinehart ’18 said KAF gives her a bigger bang for her buck.
“I feel like if I’m already going to be paying for an expensive coffee I might as well pay for it [at KAF],” Swinehart said. “Because I remember I paid for a coffee at the Hop the other day and thinking that it was more expensive than a plain coffee at KAF.”
Like Swinehart, Yumi Naruke ’20 favors the food options offered at KAF, citing that the food was “better quality;” however she does acknowledge the café’s high prices.
“I think KAF is way overpriced, but so is DDS if you go to the Hop,” she said. “If KAF started selling more options for meals, like soups, then I would enjoy KAF more.”
On the hand, there are students such as Chloe Son ’21 who prefer the options at DDS over the specialty pastries and drinks offered at KAF.
“I prefer DDS because I feel like I eat at the healthiest at DDS places such as Foco,” she said. “I do think that KAF is pricey because I’m on the 10 and have less DBA. I would enjoy KAF better if they had a line for people who just want to buy something already prepared.”
There appeared to be a consensus among the students interviewed that prices at KAF are high but the quality of food is also high. Common complaints among students who preferred DDS over KAF stem from the long lines. The lines discourage those who, like Son, just want to buy an already-prepared item. Students who prefer KAF enjoyed the quality and freshness of their products, and especially the convenience of its location in the library.
“I come to KAF because the food is fresher and there’s more drink options as opposed to Novack and I also think their staff is way nicer at KAF,” Swinehard said. “I think KAF has better quality food besides Collis and it’s very convenient.”
Students’ preference of KAF is not surprising their role as a major bakery in the area.
“We want to present the students with the highest quality product we can produce — coffee, pastries, sandwiches,” Tunnicliffe said.
From the student responses, it seems that KAF has successfully stayed true to its intent. When asked about how KAF decides which products to sell on campus, Tunnicliffe responded, “We’ve always listened to student feedback, that’s really important to us.” When I asked specifically about why KAF removed the curry chicken salad and sandwhich from their menu, he said, “It really came down to a production issue and just time. It may come back but we really have to take a step back.”
Students also notice other changes to dining option menus on campus. For example, the Hop menu recently has received negative feedback from some students; however, after many requests, the Hop decided to bring “bobs” back onto the menu. With regards to the long lines at KAF and whether they’re looking into ways to shorten them, Tunnicliffe said, “We commit to opening Window 2 on weekdays from 10:30 a.m. until around 2 p.m. as demand dictates.”
DDS does offer a large variety of foods at their different locations on campus, but students are generally satisfied with the quality of the foods at KAF. With implicit competition, there does not seem to be one food option dominating another. There are students going to both DDS and KAF, and it seems to all come down to personal preference.
Swinehart is a former member of The Dartmouth Senior Staff.