Kline café may reduce food cart sales

Most food cart owners do not believe that the new café inside Kline Biology Tower will affect business.
Most food cart owners do not believe that the new café inside Kline Biology Tower will affect business. Photo by Sharon Yin.

As Yale Dining opens a new café in Kline Biology Tower on Prospect Street, food cart owners on Science Hill disagree on how it will affect their businesses.

Prior to the opening of the KBT Café, Yale College students’ food options in the area were limited to these mobile establishments because budget cuts forced the closure of the School of Management’s Donaldson Commons at the beginning of 2010. Though graduate students and faculty members without meal plans will likely continue to provide steady business to the carts, some owners fear diminishing sales given the convenience of meal swipes in the new café for undergraduates.

“[The opening of the Kline café] affects small businesses like us a lot,” said Paul Suntonvipart, owner of Thai Sweet Sticky Rice food cart.

Cart owners interviewed said graduate students and faculty members typically buy more cart food than undergraduates, as it is easier for them to walk to them, eat and return to work quickly. Given that many undergraduates have already paid for their meals through meal plans, the KBT Café’s opening is likely to draw them away, said Jamshed Khalid, owner of two Mediterranean food carts and two Kati roll carts.

Daniel Rodriguez ’15, who has class and lab in Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, agreed that the meal plan consideration is an important factor for students.

“If I have class up here and want to study and grab a snack, I’ll probably go to KBT,” Rodriguez said, adding that being on the mandatory meal plan factors into his decision.

But other cart owners said they are not concerned about the addition of the KBT Café to the list of food options on Science Hill.

“So far business has not been affected,” said Raja Singh, whose cart, Curry in a Hurry, sells Indian food. “People like our food and come to us — it’s everybody’s right to do business.”

One of the advantages of food carts compared to the new café is the large variety of culinary options, owners interviewed said. Singh added that food offered at the carts is often priced two to three times more expensively in restaurants.

All three graduate students interviewed said they often buy food from the carts and had not yet heard of the opening of the new café.

Unless students work in Kline Biology Tower or in the surrounding buildings, the new café may be inconvenient, one added.

“I can’t imagine going that far; I usually don’t have more than five or 10 minutes to buy food and eat at my desk,” said Nancy Hite GRD ’12, who works in the StatLab at 140 Prospect St.

The KBT Café is open Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch.


  • GradStudent

    I can’t imagine that undergraduate meal swipes will affect business at the food carts at all. The food carts are kind of a grad student thing.

    As far as grad student meal swipes.. everyone who pays for them does their best to spend them all, which often means skipping the carts. If anything, having the new cafe will help grad students on the 150 plan spend their lunch swipes.

    Also, the average price at the carts is about $5-$6, not 3x the cost of commensurate food in town. That’s part of why grad students like them so much. Meal swipes cost about 2x as much as the food carts do.

  • Frashizzle

    Can we (Yale) please, please just let markets work? We can’t go without a meal plan or use meal swipes at off-campus vendors (like, literally, almost every other college student in the country can) because we have to prop-up the dining halls, even though the very reason that we have to prop them up is because we don’t have enough student demand for their product. Now, someone is trying to make the argument that we can’t have a dining hall where people seem to want one because we have to prop-up food cart demand. It’s simple free-market economics, people. If it becomes the case that there is insufficient demand to support all of the food carts, then some of them will leave.

  • Jaymin

    I wish Kline Cafe would reduce their outrageous prices. You can’t even buy a proper meal with a meal swipe. Entree, fruit, dessert, drink – pick two.