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Baker Dining Cuts Loss By Half over Two Years

By Shawdee Eshghi
Staff Reporter

Two years after control of the Baker House Dining Hall was given to students, it has significantly reduced its losses, although it has yet to break even, said Baker Dining Committee Chair Albert Hsu '96.

Before the transition, Baker Dining was losing $10,000 per month. It subsequently cut it losses in half last year, and has continued to improve this year, said Hsu.

One of the main reasons that Baker Dining has had financial troubles is its ability to attract enough students to the facility.

"Not enough people know about it," said Hsu. "It's good food, a lot of food, at a reasonable price." Baker Dining Manager Phil Hatchouel currently serves around 160 students each night between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Dining hall offers variety of food

Baker Dining offers both full meals and a la carte items. Full meals cost $6 and include soup, an entree and two side dishes. There are always several choices each night, including vegetarian and vegan options. Students may also purchase a Baker Dining membership for $55 for the entire year which will allow them to buy meals for $5.

Baker Dining is very responsive to student input, Hatchouel said "The items on our menu now are items that were really popular last year," he said. "We also try to keep it healthy."

Baker Dining is always looking for ways to improve, said Hsu. One possible addition is the idea of "cultural meals," where ethnic groups on campus could help in the preparation of an authentic ethnic meal, as well as providing some information on the particular region where the food came from, Hsu said.

The current food service system has been in place since the spring of 1993. At that time, McCormick Hall and MacGregor House also had dining halls, in addition to the current ones at Baker House and Next House.

Dormitory dining halls were losing a great deal of money, and the only way to continue their operation would have involved the implementation of a mandatory $1,150-per-year meal plan.

At that point, the Institute kept the dining halls at Baker and Next House open because those residents have relatively little access to kitchens. Since then there has been some discussion about reopening the dining halls at McCormick and MacGregor.

While such a move would provide competition for Baker Dining, Hsu is confident that Baker Dining could coexist with other dormitory dining halls. "It wouldn't work if we were all doing the same thing, serving the same kinds of food."

Additional providers beneficial

MIT's contract with Aramark, the current food service provider, is due for renewal in 1997. Hsu said that it would be more beneficial for all sides if there were more than one food service contract awarded at MIT. "Right now, Aramark has a monopoly. If we introduced some competition, everybody would win," he said.

Students would have "better food quality, lower prices, and more hours of service," Hsu said. "I think [competition] is critical."

Food service at MIT represents a $9 million market, so making it more efficient is important, Hsu said.

Hsu said that he thinks Baker Dining will not close, despite any of the potential changes. "It was re-opened by the students, and we are not going to let it go," said Hsu.