New café opens in the Becton Center

The new café on the first floor of the Becton Center aims to foster social cohesion among Yale’s engineering community.
The new café on the first floor of the Becton Center aims to foster social cohesion among Yale’s engineering community. Photo by Kathryn Crandall.

With today’s opening of the new 44-seat café on the first floor of the Becton Center, Yale’s engineers will now have a place tailor-fit to lounge and work.

School of Engineering Deputy Dean Vincent Wilczynski said one of the goals for the café was to give the engineering community a place to meet and discuss ideas to complement the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, which opened last fall also on the first floor of the Becton Center. While the café will only serve food and beverages in the morning and early afternoon, the space will remain open 24 hours a day.

“Universities are supposed to be hospitable in the interaction between departments,” said Peter Bentel, partner at Bentel & Bentel, the architecture firm which designed the café. “What better way to literally be hospitable than to offer a place for people to go have a cup of coffee or a great bagel?”

The café serves not only to create social cohesion among members of the engineering school, but also to foster interaction between and among other departments in the University, Bentel said.  Bentel added that the café would serve as an “oasis” along the stretch of Prospect Street for students living in the planned residential colleges half a block from the café.

“We have the best coffee and the best of our products and portfolio in the snack category featured in this place,” Yale Dining Executive Director Rafi Taherian said. “But having said that, food is not the center. The experience is the center.”

The café will serve a variety of beverages, sandwiches and snacks from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekdays, though it will not accept lunch swipes because of limited food storage space and its physical proximity with Commons, Taherian said.

Yale Dining Director of Retail Development & Operations Tom Tucker said there were multiple factors behind the decision not to allow meal-swipe payment at the new café. The limited space in the café both prevents hot food preparation and storage of enough food to support a meal program. Any meal that could be offered in the café would be “100 percent better” across the street at Commons, he said.

Taherian added that allowing meal swipes at too many retail locations would threaten the flagship residential college dining experience.

“You don’t want to compete with a beautiful residential college with a café,” he said. “You want to make sure that students have an opportunity to see and experience their dining together within these small communities. We have the most beautiful residential college dining experience in the country. There is no one who can even come close to Yale. We have to be protective of that.”

All four students interviewed during the café soft opening last week said they had positive first impressions of the space but wished the café accepted lunch swipes.

Usman Anwer ’13 said he usually goes to Whitney Avenue to get coffee, and the broad coffee offerings in the new café will save him the trip. He added that he hopes the café installs microwaves so students could warm food at all hours.

Between the new café and the CEID, Tim Westcott ’14 said he expects to spend a significant amount of time in Becton.

“It’s really neat,” he said. “I’m happy they are spending money on the engineering facilities.”

The café is soliciting entries for names and logos until 5 p.m. on Jan. 25. The winning entry will be announced before spring break.

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