Kowloon Disappoints StudentsBy Reuven M. Lerner
Only two weeks after Kowloon began delivering Chinese food on campus, both MIT Food Services and the Undergraduate Association are displeased with the restaurant's promptness and quality.
If the problems continue, Kowloon, which earlier this month became the second restaurant to accept payments on ValiDine, may lose its contract with ARA.
"I just sent a letter to Kowloon saying, `Look, a lot of students I've spoken with have had bad experiences. I personally have had some bad experiences with your food,' " said UA President Stacy E. McGeever '93.
"Implicit in the letter, especially in the tone of the letter, is that we'll lodge formal complaints with MIT Food Services if things don't change," she added.
Michael S. Gull '92, chairman of the UA Food Service Committee, said that Alan Leo, general manager of MIT Food Services, had sent a similarly critical letter to the Kowloon management. The letter said that ARA would consider revoking its contract with the restaurant if delivery times did not improve within two weeks, he said.
Swamped with orders
A manager on duty at Kowloon yesterday afternoon, who asked not to be named, attributed much of the problem to the small size of Kowloon's kitchen and the large number of student orders.
"We have four woks in the kitchen, and sometimes when the MIT people call up, we also have a regular full-establishment dining room in here. We're cooking as fast as we can."
But he later said that Kowloon was uniquely able to serve students' needs, explaining that "we've been trained to do this kind of thing because we do a humongous lunch."
Kowloon has already begun delivering fewer orders at one time, which should speed up the delivery process by letting cars leave more often, the manager said. Still, he added, students should remember that "our restaurant wasn't designed for a delivery service. We only started doing delivery a year ago."
The manager also said that part of the blame lay with students, some of whom had changed the meal card numbers on their receipts, were not in their rooms when deliveries arrived, and used the signature of someone other than the meal card holder.
According to the manager, Kowloon has lost some regular customers since it started delivering to MIT. "With all of the deliveries we've been doing in the last two weeks, it's sort of hurt the restaurant."
"We're not sure how much it is to our advantage to deliver to MIT in the first place," he said. "I wouldn't stop delivering to MIT. I would just stop doing the food service. We could still deliver to MIT for someone ordering [with] cash."
Students interviewed last night were almost unanimous in saying Kowloon's food was overpriced. "It's too expensive for my meal card," said one Baker House resident. "I think it is expensive in that individual modules are expensive and you need to buy enough [food] to make it expensive."
Gregory J. Garvin '92 agreed, saying, "I thought it was kind of expensive and kind of dry."
Another student, Andrew D. Robertson '93, said, "It's a little expensive, [but] it's competitive with other Chinese food."
Quality was a much more divisive issue than price. McGeever said that UA Vice President J. Paul Kirby '92, "who eats all," disliked it at a UA taste-testing session held several days ago.
"It's not clear that the stuff's edible," she added.
Others felt it was similar to the food at other Chinese restaurants. "They're pretty good. They're as good as Mandarin," Robertson said.
A resident of Senior House saw nothing of value in Kowloon's food, and said he would not order it again. "It's overpriced, and the quality is terrible, and they're very rude," he said.
"They called us at the desk a couple of days ago and went nuts when someone said they were in room 201, when they were in 201C," he added.
Garvin said he would probably order from Kowloon in the future, but only under certain conditions: "If I get sick of pizza, and I have no cash, I'll consider it."
McGeever said that ARA would likely look for another restaurant if the contract with Kowloon were dissolved. "The problem is with this particular vendor, not with bringing a Chinese restaurant to MIT."