"Parking is for paying patrons only. All others will be towed." This might become the new slogan at the Greenhouse Cafe, although its managers may word it a little differently.
To increase business and turnover for their tables, the Science Center cafe, under new management from Harvard Dining Services (HDS), is going to being bouncing non-playing customers off the premises.
Where will dining services strike next? Will we have to risk getting booted out the our house dining halls for lingering too long over meals?
People spend a lot of time at the Greenhouse Cafe because it is comfortable and convenient. Teaching fellows hold office hours there, people do their homework, students meet and talk. Sometimes they eat food. Sometimes they don't.
During "peak mealtime hours" these people will no longer be welcome. And why? Because, as Manager John Cahill said in a letter to customers, "this situation was demonstrably impacting our sales figure."
But Michael P. Berry, the HDS chief, says that money has nothing to do with the bouncing. "Patrons were complaining that they couldn't find seats," he said in an interview last week.
Will these new restriction make any difference to financial returns? Certainly turnover is one of the keys to any successful restaurant, but HDS owes a little bit more to the students who frequent the cafe. Loyalty and atmosphere are also major components for success.
That doesn't mean students should feel license to linger forever. But turnover at the Greenhouse should be a question of courtesy, not coercion.
In fact, Berry says he too is a "camper," that he doesn't "like it either way." Okay, then, how about something in between, oh Messiah of not-so-long-ago, like a nice sign asking people to be considerate? Or how about putting in more tables? There is plenty of room. The Greenhouse serves Harvard affiliates only. It should start acting less like a business and more like a service.
If supervisors start bouncing out students for not drinking enough coffee, the Greenhouse Cafe might not continue to be the bright spot in the middle of the scientific wilderness.