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Bon Appétit Dining at Cornell College
When students pushed the administration at 1,100-student Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa to change their dining services provider, V.P. for Student Affairs John Harp (right) did his homework. He understood students’ concerns about the mediocre quality of food provided by Sodexo, a publicly traded corporation that provides dining servces to institutions all over the world. Students put forward the name of the Bon Appetit Management Company (BAMC) as an alternative.
BAMC — which is unrelated to the cooking magazine Bon Appétit — was founded in 1987 in Silicon Valley, and its headquarters is still in Palo Alto. It began life as a purveyor of dining services to companies and museums in California, and it branched out when its management saw a real opportunity to serve high-quality food to schools.
Harp found the idea of BAMC’s fresh dishes prepared to order to be enticing in comparison to Sodexo’s steam tables of food cooked in large batches. In visiting three other colleges, he found that BAMC does what it says. Not only is BAMC’s food fresh as advertised, but the structure of the storage areas of the company’s dining halls backs up that assertion. As compared to standard institutional food businesses, BAMC’s sites have far less dry storage space devoted to canned goods and other pre-packaged food items, and a great deal more space allocated to coolers holding fresh ingredients, many of which were sourced from local farms and small businesses.
Cornell College came to an agreement with BAMC, and the company began serving food to its students in 2012. The entire Sodexo staff was hired directly by BAMC. They were given extensive training, an effort that was needed because serving freshly prepared food requires better organization and more intense work. In its first several years of operation in Mount Vernon, BAMC increased both the number of food service workers and the wages and benefits that they received. Nonetheless, within two years approximately 75% of the Sodexo workers had left for other jobs. BAMC’s open-to-view food preparation — which it calls “exhibition cooking” — and its work pace are more akin to a private restaurant than an institutional dining hall. It seems that many workers were unwilling or unable to adapt to these changes, despite better compensation.
For students, the cost of Cornell College’s obligatory, all-you-can-eat dining plans increased somewhat. However Harp found that students saved money overall: the high quality of BAMC’s food meant that they chose to eat less frequently in town restaurants. Harp says that Cornell College’s dining hall cuisine is “the best food in town.”
The only hiccup in the transition was finding the right BAMC managers to supervise the dining facility. Harp watched BAMC work with several people before finding the right leaders in their organization to work at Mount Vernon.
Addendum: Cornell College’s full dining plan with BAMC will cost $4,800 for the 2015-2016 academic year. That figure contrasts with the total current cost of $5,550 for Dartmouth’s SmartChoice20 plan. Once again, I would cite this difference as an example of Dartmouth doing less with more.
Addendum: Below is a partial list of BAMC’s 500+ clients:
Education: Penn, MIT, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Case Western Reserve, Denison, Hampshire, Carleton, Oberlin, Reed, St. Olaf, University of the Pacific, Washington U. in St. Louis, Wheaton College.
Corporate: Adobe, DreamWorks SKG, eBay, Electronic Arts, Genentech, Google, Levi’s, Lucasfilm, Nordstrom, Oracle, Plantronics, SAP, Starbucks HQ, Sony, Target Corporation, Twitter, Yahoo.
Museum and specialty venues: Terzo Piano at the Art Institute of Chicago, AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants), Getty Center and Villa (Los Angeles), Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Musical Instrument Museum (Phoenix), Theory at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, Public House (San Francisco), Panorama at the Saint Louis Art Museum, TASTE Restaurant at the Seattle Art Museum.
Addendum: John Harp also noted that BAMC listens attentively to students’ wishes for particular recipes. Here’s a flyer from the dining website at Carleton College, a longtime BAMC client :
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
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- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
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- The Indian Wars
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