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Saturday, March 02, 2024 — Houston, TX

Dandelion Cafe begins normal operations, sets hours

Sammy Frey / Thresher

By Keegan Leibrock     1/23/24 9:26pm

The Dandelion Cafe, a Houston-based vendor, has opened in the O’Connor Building for Engineering & Science. This week, the restaurant has begun operating its normal hours, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. The restaurant serves a number of breakfast and lunch options all day and accepts Tetra.

According to Brad Thacker, the director of operations in the O’Connor Building, a number of vendors were considered for the space with multiple criteria in mind before Dandelion Cafe was ultimately selected as the vendor.

Thacker said that Dandelion Cafe, which has another location in Bellaire, was chosen due to its menu options and ability to quickly adapt to a new space.

“We wanted a local vendor that would fit well with Rice’s students, faculty and staff most importantly,” Thacker wrote in an email to the Thresher. “Other factors included having a wide culinary range to be able to accommodate all catering needs for the building … [and] an entrepreneurial spirit to keep the menu fresh and exciting … Finally, the vendor needed to be ready financially and operationally to open a new location [including] the scaling challenges this would entail.”

Shayla Pruitt, an employee of the original Dandelion Cafe who moved to the new location, said that the transition to the new space has been largely without challenges.

“For me, the transition has been pretty easy because I’m from the old location, but everyone’s at least a little familiar with the expectations of the [the managers],” Pruitt said. “I wouldn’t say [the kitchen] is smaller than at the Bellaire location, but we do have more equipment which allows for more foods to be made in-house.”

Arjun Surya, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, said that the new dining location feels much different from other on-campus restaurants.

“I stopped by on my way to class when I realized that the cafe was open,” Surya said. “Right away, I noticed that compared to every other [food vendor] at Rice, it seemed very different. It is very big and spacious, and the menu had a lot more options than other on-campus dining locations.”

Thacker said that the vendor would begin normal hours this week, with the possibility of expanding hours in the future.

“Reception has been extremely positive,” Thacker said. “I expect that to remain true as they extend operations to 7 a.m. [to] 7 p.m. this week and start opening on weekends very soon.”

Pruitt said that the decision to extend operating hours beyond the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. soft opening was made to account for an increase in customer traffic.

“Right when everyone’s getting out of class around 3 p.m., that’s when we get our biggest pops [in business],” Pruitt said.

Pruitt said the location serves high-quality ingredients, made in-house.

“We make our own sausage and chorizo, and we marinate our chicken for 24 hours in the store so you get the best flavor,” Pruitt said. “We make our own syrups and other items for coffees ourselves … We really pride ourselves in the quality that we give.”

Surya said that he hopes Rice will build on the success of the new cafe and continue to add on-campus food options.

“I think a big problem we see right now is that there is just a lack of other dining options on campus, especially during the nighttime,” Surya said. “I definitely feel like this new cafe is a step in the right direction.”

Susann Glenn, Rice’s director of communication for finance and administration, said that while there are no immediate plans to expand, Rice administration is always considering adding more external food vendors onto campus. 

“As our campus land use plan becomes more public and the president’s strategic plan gets out there, there will be pockets [on campus] where we will need something here or something there,” Glenn said. “So [adding more vendors] is always something that we’re exploring because … as the population grows that also means our staff and faculty populations are growing. So how are we feeding folks?”

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