Au Bon Pain will no longer accept Flex dollars, but Yale will try to make Flex an option at Ivy Noodle and MexiCali Grille, Yale Dining Services Director David Davidson said Tuesday.
The Flex dollars program — which allows participating students to spend a semesterly allowance at local restaurants — is still in effect at Naples Pizza and Restaurant, Yorkside Pizza and Restaurant and Durfee’s Sweet Shoppe.
Au Bon Pain District Manager Jerry Filler said Yale approached his company approximately two weeks before the beginning of fall semester to renew the program’s contract, which runs through the school year. Yale then informed Au Bon Pain that it was raising the percentage it takes from each Flex dollars transaction.
“It’s a service we’d love to offer, but Yale made it to a point that we couldn’t afford to offer it,” Filler said. “Yale’s [percentage] was at least three times higher than any other place — where the service is offered to us.”
Filler said Au Bon Pain would “jump right on it” if Yale were to lower the percentage to its original level.
Davidson said expanding the payment method to the Ivy Noodle and MexiCali Grille would grant students more diverse meal options.
“This gives students the opportunity for late night dining,” Davidson said. “Both [Ivy Noodle and MexiCali Grille] have shown interest in being part of the program.”
But owners of both establishments said they were unaware Yale was trying to contact them.
Ivy Noodle owner Coreen Guo said she had never asked Yale to be part of the program, but said Flex dollars could help her business.
“Business is so funny,” Guo said. “Some days [Ivy Noodle] is full of students. Some days it’s full of other people.”
MexiCali Grille part-owner Nathaniel Merrill ’01, who said he used Flex dollars during his time at Yale, said he is “definitely interested” in accepting Flex dollars.
“My partner had tried to contact somebody [at Yale],” Merrill said. “But it kind of stalled.”
MexiCali Grille manager Dila Fonda said the restaurant has pursued inclusion in the Flex dollars program since its February opening. She said the restaurant could adapt easily to the Flex dollars system, which requires workers to operate a card-swiping machine.
“It couldn’t be anything more complicated than how we have our credit card machines now,” Fonda said.
Yorkside Pizza and Restaurant cook Angelo Tsangalis said that while Flex dollars may account for as much as 20 percent of payments, it is unfair for Yale to charge restaurants as much as it does for the service.
“You work for nothing,” Tsangalis said.
Davidson declined to comment on the specifics of the financial relationship between the University and restaurants participating in the Flex dollars program.
Though Tsangalis said Yorkside co-owner George Koutroumanis must see some value in the business Flex generates, he said he sympathized with Au Bon Pain’s decision.
“Because [Yale] asked too much money, I mean, that’s why they stopped,” Tsangalis said.
Along with other students in Pierson College who are temporarily living in Swing Space without a dining hall, Henry Cordes ’05 received $75 in Flex dollars for the semester.
“I think it would be better if you could use [Flex dollars] at more places,” Cordes said. “I think [Ivy Noodle and MexiCali Grille] would be the best ones they could have.”
Davidson said Yale wishes to offer options for spending Flex dollars across a wide geographical area. With Naples on Wall Street, Durfee’s on Elm Street and Yorkside on York Street, he said Ivy Noodle and MexiCali Grille would make good additions to the program.