Bon Appetit brings student feedback to fruition

James Plant, Bon Appetit’s new executive chef, prepares for dinner at the Shaw Student Center. Before coming to Westminster, Plant was named sous chef and manager of the year by Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops in Salt Lake City. Photo by Taeler Gannuscia.

James Plant, Bon Appetit’s new executive chef, prepares for dinner at the Shaw Student Center. Before coming to Westminster, Plant was named sous chef and manager of the year by Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops in Salt Lake City. Photo by Taeler Gannuscia.

Every morning, Ryan Leonard, general manager of Bon Appetit, said he begins his day by looking over the comment cards he receives from students at Westminster College. Comment cards are the main way for students to communicate their suggestions for improvement within the Shaw Student Center and Bassis Center, according to Leonard.

Leonard said he looks for feedback not only so he can implement new student ideas but also so he can improve the cafe and menu.

“We love getting compliments on the comment cards, but we need to hear more than just the good,” Leonard said. “The bad is what keeps us on our toes. Use them to ask for stuff that you want. We are willing to try anything.”

One of the main complaints Bon Appetit hears is that students don’t know what to do with all of the leftover money on their meal plan at the end of the semester, Leonard said.

Sydney Bendrick, a Westminster junior and nursing major, said she disliked that the meal plan money wouldn’t roll back into her account.

“I never came close to spending the full amount by just paying for myself, and I had the smaller of the two meal plans,” Bendrick said.

To ensure students are spending all their money and enjoying it as well, Leonard said he is more than willing to help them spend their meal plan money in creative ways.

“If you have money left over at the end of the semester, you can throw a catering event,” Leonard said. “You can use your meal plan money towards throwing a party for your residence hall or you and your friends. We can even set up a barbeque. This way, people can use their money effectively and enjoy it.”

These events and parties don’t have to be solely funded by one person. Leonard said he is happy to take multiple payments so students can have their friends chip in with their meal plan money, too.

“For those students who like to tailgate up at the U of U during football season, we can put together fun foods for you to throw a tailgating party with your friends,” Leonard said. “We are willing to do almost anything—you just have to ask.”

Leonard said he understands students often get frustrated with figuring out how to budget their meal plan money and is there to help. He also said he recognizes Bon Appetit needs to keep changing, so he has added items other than food for purchase at the campus coffee shop, Griff’s Roost.

“We have added laundry detergent, dishwasher soap and bathroom items such as toothbrushes to the list of things you can buy with a meal plan,” Leonard said. “This is more convenient for students living on campus because they don’t have to leave campus to buy it.”

Christian Diaz, a Westminster junior and biology major, said the only thing he dislikes about Shaw is its hours. Often, it isn’t open all day during holiday breaks, which Diaz said can be challenging for students living on campus.

“A good solution to the cafe not being open during breaks are the bulk orders that we offer,” said Chloe Wells, catering director of Bon Appetit. “So having them be able to not only spend the extra money on their card but also have food during that time is helpful.”

Wells said Bon Appetit is working on its bulk order list and students are able to order almost anything they want in the cafe in bulk as long as they let her know in advance.

“I like that they have more options than what they had my first year,” Diaz said. “I love sushi Thursday.”

Wells and Leonard said they both agree Bon Appetit’s new executive chef, James Plant, is the main reason for the variety of options that have been added to the cafe this year. Plant was named sous chef of the year and manager of the year at Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops in Salt Lake City before coming to shake up Shaw’s menu.

“He always finds a way to make it happen,” Wells said. “Instead of telling me why it won’t work, he is always coming up with ideas.”

Plant and Leonard said another complaint this year has been the lack of options for international students. In response to these criticisms, Bon Appetit now carries halal meat for Muslim students, and Plant said he has been working on adding more variety to the menu overall.

Plant said he recently decided to make an international student feel more at home by making one of her favorite Chinese dishes. He first met the first-year student at a catering event at the beginning of the semester.  

Later, he said he saw her on his day off and asked her how she was doing.

“I’m looking for something to eat,” she said. “I feel homesick.”

Plant said he proceeded to ask her what she felt like eating. He had her look up her favorite recipe from home, translated it and made it for her while he was off the clock.

“I brought her in my office and she looked it up on the internet,” Plant said. “I translated it and made it for her. It’s difficult because I’m not familiar with Chinese items as much, but I’m going to give it a try.”

Plant said he has been working on adding breakfast items to the menu that represent Chinese culture as well.

“It’s their food; it’s just food! I’m not building rocket ships!” Plant said, laughing as he explained his willingness to try making international foods he’s never made before.

Leonard said Bon Appetit has been trying to do pretty much anything people have been asking for; it just needs more feedback.

“There aren’t many college campus food services where you can ask for something and then they will do it the next day or as soon as possible,” Leonard said.