Dining Hall Open Forums: Bon Appetit
Based in Palo Alto, California, Bon Appetit Management Company visited Brandeis for the second of four Request For Proposals presentations on Wednesday in Sherman Function Hall. Throughout the event, Bon Appetit leadership staff presented what they would do if they were the next Brandeis dining vendor.
According to Bon Appetit President Michael Bauccio, the company started over 30 years ago with the philosophy that “food did not have to be a mystery.” According to the Bon Appetit website, “Our food is cooked from scratch, including sauces, stocks and soups ... A pioneer in environmentally sound sourcing policies, we’ve developed programs addressing local purchasing, overuse of antibiotics, sustainable seafood, the food-climate change connection, humanely raised meat and eggs, and farmworkers’ rights.”
Bauccio emphasized that Bon Appetit was founded under the premise that it would make restaurant-quality food by not taking food out of the can or freezer in its “chef-driven program.” Bauccio said the vendor takes pride in knowing where all its food comes from and that there are no corporate-mandated menus so that chefs for each account are at the center for which recipes are made.
According to the PowerPoint presentation at the event, Bon Appetit services other schools such as Colby College, the University of Pennsylvania and Emory University, among others. Bon Appetit also services company headquarters for Snapchat, Uber, Amazon and Google. Bauccio said the retention rate of companies using Bon Appetit is 99%.
District Manager for Bon Appetit Yvonne Matteson introduced the company’s master plan for Brandeis dining, which falls into three categories. She said that Bon Appetit takes transparency incredibly seriously for all of its accounts, and that it seeks to create an authentic food experience. The final element is sustainability. “We are here to support and enhance your sustainability initiatives. We are a partner in that,” she said.
Bon Appetit Chef Luis Acosta, who would be the executive chef if the University selects Bon Appetit, detailed the planned changes for resident dining. Acosta emphasized Bon Appetit’s enthusiasm for bringing these ideas to reality on the Brandeis campus.
For Lower Usdan, Acosta said that Bon Appetit plans to have several stations. “Sear & Steam” will serve rice and noodle bowls as well as dumplings, “Toss” will serve seasonal Italian pasta dishes and “Cutting Board” will serve artisan sandwiches.
For Sherman Dining Hall, Acosta said that there will continue to be kosher and non-kosher dining options. Kosher dining, Acosta said, will include rotating meat and dairy days, and those dishes will align with the non-kosher dining concepts. For the non-kosher dining, stations will include “Roots,” plant-based dining that will feature a juice bar, “Wood & Stone,” hot sandwiches and made-from scratch pizza and “Near & Far,” a station that will exhibit global dishes.
General Manager for Bon Appetit Marietta Lamarre described the vendor’s vision for retail dining on campus. For Usdan retail, Louis’ Deli will still be an option, but the meats will be cooked from scratch. “Our meat is roasted in house,” she said, and rivals Boston and New York City deli. Lamarre also introduced Bon Appetit’s vision of a Chobani cafe. This will include yogurt bowls, sandwich spreads, soups and pastries, but “all will be featuring Chobani yogurt, just in different ways.”
Lamarre said the new sushi station will allow individuals to select what goes into their rolls, and the Hoot Market will continue to be a convenience store. Bon Appetit also plans to add açai bowls. She said she is most excited for the “pick-3” program where students can pick an entree and two sides to be a meal swipe. The Stein would serve scratch-made pizzas, healthy bowls and the “pub favorites” that include chicken fingers and french fries, but also locally-crafted beers and wines along with floats and shakes.
Regional Vice President of Bon Appetit Elaine Smart talked about the importance of sustainability. She said that she read the University’s climate action plan, but was surprised that “there was no mention of dining in that, and I found that particularly strange.” She said that Bon Appetit will help the University in achieving its sustainability goals. In achieving measurable sustainability results, the company uses four methods — “prioritizing plant-based proteins,” “preventing and reducing food waste,” “trimming transportation” and “decreasing deforestation.” Examples of how Bon Appetit achieves these goals are by buying local ingredients (within 150 miles), not importing tropical fruit and not buying imported bottled water. The company’s goal is 20% local purchasing, and it seeks to use all parts of produce to reduce waste, such as broccoli stems and tops. To reduce waste from its suppliers, Bon Appetit uses “imperfectly delicious produce” that may be misshapen for soups and other dishes.
In order to spread awareness of food waste and increase community responsibility, Bon Appetit plans to collect and weigh it, and then post the results of their findings. Smart said the average college student wastes 142 pounds of food a year.
In terms of wellness, Bon Appetit Regional Dietician Daniele Rossner spoke about efforts to include healthy menu items and increase allergen labelling. Rossner said the fact that food is made from scratch ensures it is easy to make food choices that are the most nutritious.
Portions are made using the United States Dietary Association’s guidelines, Rossner said, in addition to easy-to-read icons to “indicate key nutritional qualities of food across our menus.” These icons include vegan, made without gluten-containing ingredients and vegetarian. Full nutrition information will always be present in dining halls.
Rossner said that Bon Appetit takes allergies seriously. It provides food awareness training, adds descriptive nomenclature, ensures that ingredient questions are directed correctly and fosters individual connections with students with allergies to create an individualized plan to ensure they are eating safely. She said that Bon Appetit adheres to Food Allergy Research & Education guidelines.
During the Q&A session, a member of the Brandeis University staff advisory council asked about summer dining for staff and students, seeing as more and more is happening on campus over the summer. Smart replied that Brandeis did not ask Bon Appetit about its plans for this under the “Request For Proposals” process, but that the company would discuss it if it were the successful candidate.
One student asked if the current dining employees under Sodexo would keep their jobs under Bon Appetit. Smart said, “We want to embrace the current employees.” As long as the staff pass the Bon Appetit background check, they will be welcome to continue working for Brandeis Dining and join Bon Appetit. “It is very seldom, in fact never, that we go into an account and not keep all of the existing employees,” Smart said. Bauccio added that the employees that have been at Brandeis are loyal to the campus, and that it is essential for Brandeis’ partnership with Bon Appetit that they retain the current staff. He said, “There is so much that we would need to learn from them as much as the idea that we bring a new skill set we think to those employees.”
In an interview with the Justice, Senate Dining Committee Chair Nancy Zhai ’22 said, “Bon Appetit is very open to improv[ing] the current dining practice even though it means to change a culture/mindset of people.” She said that it also places an emphasis on improving allergen labelling and that staff are continually being trained in allergen information, which Zhai said is the “right step.”