Bon Appétit revamps food options on campus

On June 31st, dining hall employees prepared their last meal under the management of Sodexo Inc – the College’s long time dining services partner. This came after the College’s decision in April to choose the Bon Appétit Management Company as the new dining services provider. In a statement issued by Executive Assistant Rose Meunier, the College outlined its vision for the future of Colby dining under new management. “Bon Appetit’s proposed program emerged as the leader for its focus on food quality, variety, local sourcing, and healthy, from-scratch techniques.” Shortly after that statement was issued, Bon Appetit District Manager Kelly McDonald and General Manager Marietta Lamarre established an office in Eustis to begin the transition process.

In June, 117 of the 130 Sodexo hourly employees were offered employment with Bon Appetit. Individual meetings were set up with all hourly Sodexo employees to walk them through the transition process and to explain benefits and other specifics. According to McDonald, of the 117 employees that were offered employment “105 are currently on the payroll.” On July 1st, Bon Appetit started limited summer operations with alternating service in Robert’s (Bob’s) and Dana. During this time, Bon Appetit hired new employees and sponsored a hiring event at the Waterville Public Library in August. As of today, Bon Appetit has hired 23 new employees. According to the website snagajob.com, the dining service still has 6 full-time and 2 part-time positions to fill.

In September, Bon Appetit began full-time operation. Many returning students expressed positive opinions of the new dining services. According to an online poll commissioned by The Echo, 78.9% of respondents believe that the food at the dining halls has improved under Bon Appetit’s management. Much of this improvement has been attributed to Bon Appetit’s commitment to making dishes from scratch. One student noted that “each dish seems homemade and chefs have more license to make the food they like.” Despite these positive sentiments, several students expressed their dissatisfaction with food labeling and limited options in dining halls. Alex Thrane ’19 expressed his frustration with the selection of gluten free foods, “[Gluten free food] is hard to come by and many of the options are incorrectly labeled.” Another student suggested that Bon Appetit “put out allergen cards like Sodexo did.” Some students complained that while Bon Appetit has certainly improved Colby dining, they have failed to retain several of the more popular Sodexo dining options like a flatbread pizza bar and weekend breakfast in Bobs. One area of consensus was the numerous positive reviews of the newly revamped “Take 4”. Over 50% of students polled expressed that they are more likely to get lunch in this space. This change reflects the efforts of Bon Appetit to improve what many considered to be an underutilized space. There are still many more changes to come. According to McDonald, “The Caporale Lounge will have a new look, new furniture, and new food features. Different hot entrees and house-made soups will be available daily in addition to a variety of salads, sandwiches and sides.” Caporale will remain open past lunchtime and will function as a student lounge. Bon Appetit will also be introducing a peanut and tree nut free room with a separate menu where preparation is carefully monitored to ensure that these allergens are not present. Another improvement is the construction of a teaching kitchen in Page Kitchen. The new kitchen will be used by culinary classes and will be operational by October 14.

Many students remarked that Bon Appetit has high standards for healthy and fresh ingredients. McDonald explained that Bon Appetit chefs “develop flavors through skilled healthy cooking techniques, relying on fresh herbs and authentic spices, not the unhealthy shortcuts of fat, sugar, and salt.” Bon Appetit chefs have been required to source “at least 20 percent of their ingredients from small, owner-operated farms and ranches within 150 miles of their kitchen.” In addition, Bon Appetit has made a commitment to use Certified Humane ground beef, cage-free shell eggs, rBGH-free milk and pork raised without dependence on gestation crates or antibiotics. Bon Appetit has also committed to sourcing ingredients from the Colby Garden. McDonald commented that “Bon Appetite has already used more than 3,000 pounds of Colby Garden produce this season including tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, leeks, cucumbers, gourds, carrots, assorted greens, herbs, and more.”
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In her statement to The Echo McDonald stressed the importance of feedback and communication as Bon Appetit works to fulfil the needs of the Colby community. “Student, employee, and community feedback is crucial to our success.” McDonald also mentioned the creation of a student advisory committee which would give students another avenue to express comments and concerns. Until then, comments can be submitted directly to the management team through a form on the Colby Bon Appetit website (colby.cafebonappetit.com).