“There are days when my gluten-free, vegan roommate has more options at the dining halls than I do,” said Delaney Vail ’16.
Bon Appétit prides itself in meeting the needs of Carleton’s diverse student body. This has, however, solicited a negative response from those following more conventional diets. Specifically, many students wander the dining halls wondering, “Where’s the meat?”
And yet, while blaming Bon Appétit for not recognizing that students want more buffalo wings may be convenient, it is not justified.
“Students vote with their forks,” said Kathleen McKenna, Bon Appétit General Manager. “We pay attention to the foods that they are eating.”
Bon Appétit also solicits student feedback in other forms. “We love student feedback,” said McKenna. “Whether it’s a comment card, e-mail, or an online submission, we try to respond within 24 hours.” Additionally, Bon Appétit holds a biweekly Dining Board meeting to give students a forum to provide input in person.
Translating this feedback into menu adjustments, however, proves to be a constant challenge. Robbie Emmet ’16, Co-Head of Food Truth, a campus organization dedicated to raising food consciousness, describes the difficulty of Bon Appétit’s balancing act: “Bon Appétit has received comments both from vegans and vegetarians saying that Bon Appétit isn’t serving enough vegan/vegetarian foods and from ‘omnivores’ complaining that Bon Appétit caters to vegans too much.”
Catering to every single student is impossible, especially when feedback is contradictory. “We have to weigh out the number of comments with what the students are eating and adjust menus accordingly,” said McKenna.
Claire Kelloway ‘16, another Co-Head of Food Truth, echoed Emmet’s comment that about half of the current feedback in this area requests more vegetarian/vegan dishes, while the other half requests the opposite.
Based on these conflicting desires, it seems that Bon Appétit has struck an appropriate balance. Still, some students feel that Bon Appétit has struck an appropriate balance. Still, some students feel that Bon Appétit can do better, without making anyone unhappy.
“They should have more of the dishes that please everyone. Who doesn’t love Mac and Cheese?” said Evan Olawsky ’16. “There are also vegetarian options that can have optional meat like the nacho bar or the baked potato bar.”
But as Florence Wong ’16, the third Co-Head of Food Truth, points out, the quality and variety provided by Bon Appétit at Carleton is far ahead of what is served in the dining halls at other schools. “We often have a habit of taking things for granted, and finding things to complain about,” she said.
Regardless, Bon Appétit remains receptive to student complaints and committed to constantly adapting. As McKenna emphasized, “Students are the reason we are here, and we want to do everything to ensure that the board program is meeting their needs.”