Bon Appetit Café Receives Mixed Reviews in CHRONICLE Food Survey
By GAELYN HITE
The results of a food satisfaction survey of the IAIA community conducted by the CHRONICLE in late October reveal overall satisfaction with the Bon Appétit Café. However, it also shows respondents were not satisfied in all areas of service.
The online survey was open for a period of forty-eight hours and drew responses from sixty-six on-campus students, off-campus students, staff and faculty, The survey asked everything from preference of beverage to suggestions for improvement.
Eighty-two percent of survey responses were positive, praising the staff, the service, and the food overall: “I love the staff!”; “I wouldn’t change anything”; “Love the food.”
On the Other Hand…
Sixty percent of survey participants listed foods they do not enjoy, foods they would like to see served, and provided suggestions for improvement.
The most commonly named food items respondents do not enjoy at the Bon Appétit Café include over-spiced/seasoned foods (22 percent), pork (20 percent), and tofu (15 percent).
In an email interview, Guido Lambelet, Bon Appétit Café general manager, responded to the comments, saying pork is one of the more reasonably-priced and popular proteins.
Where spice and over seasoning are concerned, he said, “With the vast variety of places people are from, there is always a division between people who like spicy and those who prefer mild.”
He stated that people would need to be more specific in what they mean by over-spiced foods. “It’s a juggling act to blend the two and satisfy everybody.”
But not all hope is lost, the café does provide custom order service. “If students want something different and are willing to wait ten or fifteen minutes we are willing to make them something else, they just have to ask” said Lambelet.
The menu for Bon Appetit has no layout and is based more on availability of products, seasonal and local, Lamblet explained. He does read student/staff comments and requests for food.
Comment cards are available in the café near the hot beverage machines. Comments can also be made online on their website, accessible on the IAIA website.
Lamblet classifies Bon Appetit’s menu as “eclectic and forever changing.” In his 22-plus years experience with Bon Appetit in California, he said he has picked up a variety of flavors and techniques for food preparation.
The Costs of Eating
The Bon Appétit Café serves nineteen meals a week: breakfast, lunch and dinner on weekdays, brunch and dinner on the weekends. The prices in meals range from $9.25 for breakfast to $13 for dinner.
For those not interested in eating a full meal, al la carte options are available: salad, pre-made sandwiches, soup & roll, soup & salad, and combinations of each, ranging in price from $4.90 to $7.35.
Sixty-five percent of survey participants consider the meal prices reasonable in comparison to the twenty-two percent who rated the prices as “too high.”
IAIA currently has a contract with Bon Appetit to provide food services in the amount of $604,267, according to Guidestar, a website dedicated to keep an update of IRS 990 forms for non-profit organizations in the U.S. All 990 forms submitted to the IRS cover all independent contract expenses.
Bon Appetit also caters events, such as the monthly community gathering and off campus events.
“I was told I had to eat at the café at IAIA if I had the chance,” said Joanna Wulfsberg, a recruiter with the U.S. State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship program who was on-campus Nov. 11. “The students at the community college consider it a treat.”
More Ethnic Meals, Some Ambiance, Please
Respondents requested that more Native American, New Mexican and traditional-style meals be served. Meals named include enchiladas, red and green chile stews, rice and beans, tamales, tacos, frybread, Spam (yes, Spam), and posole.
Other food requests ranged from other ethnic foods from Japan or Italy, lentils and other beans for the salad bar, a variety of salad dressings, and “more complex vegetarian options.”
As for what improvements can be made of the Bon Appetit Café itself, survey participants provided a number of creative ideas. Some suggestions regarded atmosphere, asking for more student art to be displayed, ambient music, and more outdoor seating during the warmer weather.
Making food available outside of regular café hours was another suggestion. “We have visitors that come in at any time,” said one respondent. “Last year the campus bookstore sold some salads and sandwiches prepared by the café that was extremely convenient,” said another.
Changes Lambelet would like to make, fell in line with survey results. “I would like to see the Café being used as a revolving art gallery for students, possibly allowing students to sell their work,” he said. “I would love to have music in the Café. The issue is having the school agree to install the system, who would be in charge of it, and what music would and wouldn’t be allowed.”
He said that outdoor seating is something up to the school to provide, though there are concerns about students not returning dishes, or passing through the back door and not swiping their identification card to activate their meal plan, essentially not paying for their meal.
Students’ dissatisfaction with the Bon Appetit menu is not new. In a story by CHRONICLE reporter Gavin Atilano in March 2010, one student questioned the veracity of the café’s claim to healthy food, stating, “I’m not sure what’s in [the food] and sometimes [the people serving it] don’t even know. Some people are allergic to certain things—like peanuts.”
Then, as now, Lamblet said the café could prepare individual orders if asked.
Atilano also reported that other students dissatisfied with the quality of the Native dishes chose to eat sandwiches because of dislike for the hot options. Atilano wrote that “one of the determining factors in IAIA’s contracting of Bon Appétit was its usage of sustainable and local ingredients and the company’s agreement to tailor the menus to Native American cuisine.”
Even earlier, widespread student dissatisfaction with the cafeteria operated by Sodexho led to the contract with Bon Appétit in January 2010.
Marcus Grignon and Evelina Zuni Lucero contributed to this story.