MexiCali Grille is now accepting Flex dollars, co-owner Than Merrill ’01 said Monday.
Merrill said the University contacted him about a month before winter break to secure his restaurant’s participation in the Flex program, a meal plan option allowing some Yale students to spend a pre-paid amount of money at several local establishments.
“I think it brings exposure to the store,” Merrill said. “It brings students in.”
Following Au Bon Pain’s departure from the program last semester, Yale Dining Services Director David Davidson said Oct. 14 that the University would try to bring Ivy Noodle and MexiCali Grille into the Flex program.
MexiCali Grille has been accepting Flex since the beginning of the semester, Merrill said.
The Yale dining Web site says Flex dollars are accepted at Durfee’s Sweet Shoppe and the Blue Dog Cafe in the Hall of Graduate Studies. The service is also available at Naples Pizza and Restaurant and Yorkside Pizza and Restaurant.
Merrill said he thinks MexiCali Grille will “break even” on Flex customers and said he hopes students paying with Flex will bring other students who pay cash. Merrill said about 27 customers came to MexiCali Grille Sunday and paid with Flex dollars. He said he thinks approximately half of them would not have come in had it not been for the Flex payment option.
Merrill said he considers MexiCali Grille’s participation in the program to be a “trial period” but said he would do what is best for students even if it only breaks even for his restaurant.
An Ivy Noodle employee said the restaurant does not accept Flex. Davidson said he thinks Ivy Noodle’s ownership declined to participate in the program.
Former Yale College Council dining committee member Matthew Ciesielski ’06 said his committee asked dining services last semester to include Ivy Noodle and MexiCali Grille in the Flex program.
“I will be going to MexiCali,” Ciesielski said. “And I definitely appreciate that they’re accepting [Flex].”
Stanley Alcorn ’07 said he has received 75 Flex dollars each semester for being a Pierson College student living on campus, as Pierson is currently under renovations and without a dining hall. Alcorn said he has already spent about 50 of his Flex dollars for the semester. He said he spends his Flex dollars at Yorkside Pizza and Restaurant and Durfee’s Sweet Shoppe, and even though Mexicali Grille will participate in the program, he will probably not go patronize the restaurant.
An Au Bon Pain district manager said in October that his company left the program because the percentage Yale took from each Flex sale was too high. Merrill said Yale takes 17 percent of every Flex sale at MexiCali Grille.
“Obviously it’s a high percentage cut in the food industry,” Merrill said. “That’s your profit margin right there in the restaurant industry.”
But Merrill said he is excited about bringing the program to MexiCali Grille.
“We’re thankful for the opportunity to be able to offer Flex to the students,” he said.