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The KAF Controversy

The D and the Valley News have reported on King Arthur Flour Café’s year-end departure from Baker. Jim Kim’s only positive legacy is on the chopping block. For what reason? All sides agree that the extent of the Café’s menu is the issue. The College won’t allow KAF to serve sandwiches; KAF must limit its menu to coffee and pastries. KAF says that it can’t make a go of things with a limited menu, so it is leaving.

KAF.JPGWhy the restrictions? Is nutrition the issue? Or litter? Self-evidently not. The obvious impetus is that KAF is a far more attractive option for students than the Novack Café, and undergrads have voted with their feet, wallets and (Dart)mouths. The end result is that Novack is losing gobs of money.

Well, we can’t have that now, can we. Of course, if Novack would up its game and serve more attractive food at better prices, then it might compete better for students’ patronage. But if it did so, it would lose even more money. As this space reported three years ago, wages and benefits for DDS workers at Novack are close to double what the friendly KAF workers take home. In order to make ends meet, DDS is forced to charge high prices and make sandwiches and other items with cheap ingredients. In contrast, KAF pays a market wage to its people, actually a little better than that paid to most food service workers in the Upper Valley. The resulting saving allows it to offer tastier, more nutritious products.

Novack1.jpgThe College’s effort to protect DDS’s monopoly from competition is entirely the wrong choice. The better move in the short term would be to keep KAF in Baker, and see if another food service company wants to take over Novack. More competition rather than less is what we need.

Then the next step would be to have DDS’ entire slipshod operation in ‘53 Commons replaced by an independent company that has experience in servicing a large population like the College’s undergrads. Let’s end the SEIU sinecure and ask DDS workers to go find jobs elsewhere. If they want to work for the new company that runs the Class of ‘53 Commons, they can do so at the same level of wages and benefits that all of their friends and neighbors earn in the Upper Valley.

By passing the ensuing savings on to students, we could lower the cost of board at the College. In making that change, we would no longer be the second most expensive Ivy, even though we do business in the second cheapest locale (after Ithaca). Phil, you’ve said that you want to control the cost of education. If you are serious about that goal, then start by running DDS for the benefit of students, not the staff.

Addendum: Seattle was recently in the news when it boldly raised the local minimum wage to $15/hour (benefits are not included, and vacation days can be as low as ten days/year). The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25/hour. In unhappy contrast, DDS’s starting wage for SEIU workers is $16.78/hour. In addition, DDS workers over 40 years of age receive a 9% of wages pension contribution. All DDS workers start with just under five weeks of vacation each year; things get better as time of service goes on. I won’t even start on the Cadillac medical plan. Whatever your politics, the College can’t afford such unnecessary largesse when market wages are so much lower in Hanover and its surrounding communities.

Addendum: Meanwhile the New York Times reports:

Boloco.jpg

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