The foodservice management company is making changes to dining services

When Azusa Pacific students return to campus for the fall, they will notice big changes at APU’s dining venues. In June, APU signed a contract with Bon Appétit Management Company to run dining operations on campus.

In the transition, there was one closure—the off-campus bakery in Glendora. Beside that, the various venues will remain with most of the same menus, according to Sam Samaan, executive director of university services. 

“It should be the same concepts with different ingredients,” Samaan said.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Carbajal.

In addition, according to Samaan, the prices of both dining plans and items at the different venues will not increase. However, the dining point system has changed. Previously, each dining point was worth $2. Now it is a dollar for dollar system.

“Nothing has changed in the cost of the dining plans. Just when we said 50 percent off last year, it’s not there [anymore], it’s just dollar for dollar,” Samaan said. “It’s the same cost, the same amount of power of purchasing. Nothing is changing. It’s just a systematic change.” 

Another thing that will remain the same is the employees, for the most part.

“Dining Services [full time] staff had the opportunity to move to Bon Appétit,” Samman said. “Bon Appétit opened the door for them and gave them the opportunity to join the team. I think most of them joined, the majority of the staff. The students are still under APU, they’ll work for Bon Appéit, but they’re going to be paid by APU.”

According to Samman and Bon Appétit District Manager Bob Rall, it is important to note that no students will lose their positions because of the transition. 

“Before we actually came in here, we told all the managers at all the venues to sign up all the student workers. Whoever was working here before, sign them up,” Rall said.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Carbajal.

Samaan didn’t say if workers will receive the same amount of hours; however, the venues will all have the same hours of operation, except for Umai Sushi which will only be open for four hours daily.

This begs the question: what has changed?

Well, a lot. 

Executive Chef Anastacio Rodriguez is leading the transition in the kitchen. He said that while many of the items on the menus will stay the same, the ingredients and the way they’re made will change significantly. 

“It’s really simple. Fresh ingredients, local and seasonal artisanal style cuisine. That’s really it,” Rodriguez said. “When the meats come in [as] large primal cuts, we’ll break them down. Vegetables come in not processed. We don’t use any bases or any mixes and we make our own stocks.”

This is the Bon Appétit difference: everything is done from scratch. 

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Carbajal.

Bon Appétit is also known for their ingredients. At least 20 percent of all ingredients have to be purchased from local farms or sources within 150 miles of campus. 

“Here we’ll be using Mariposa Ranch for our beef. We’ll bring in some Mary’s Free Range Chicken. We will bring in Bread Artisan, which is a local artisanal bakery for most of our breads. We’ll use VR Green Farms for a lot of the produce. We’ll use Hollandia Dairy. The list is pretty massive,” Rodriguez said.

Perhaps the biggest selling point for Bon Appétit is how healthy the food is. Terri Brownlee, Bon Appétit’s director of nutrition and wellness, spoke about this. 

“We offer students an abundance of plant-based foods. You’ll see lots of fruits and vegetables, lots of grains. Certainly we will still have animal proteins in there, but sometimes in more complementary roles,” Brownlee said. “We also balance that with indulgent food choices. We’re not taking away anybody’s burger and fries options. We’re just making sure it’s balanced for students who want to eat that way.”

Brownlee said all Bon Appétit chefs complete extensive training and are FARE certified, so they know how to avoid cross contact to prevent allergy problems. She said part of the training is learning healthy cooking techniques.

“We encourage them to use those techniques to bring out flavors in food and not rely so heavily on salt, fat and sugar as the main flavor drivers,” Brownlee said.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Foster.

How does all of this translate to the plate? 

According to Jennifer Carbajal, Bon Appétit general manager at APU, all feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive so far, although the scope is limited. She said 1899 Dining Hall has served football players and residence advisors who arrived to campus early for training.

“We had comment cards that the football players filled out. They were pretty witty and fun to hear. One of them was ‘A yes for me, dawg’ from American Idol. One of them said ‘This is sick’ and we were worried at first, but then we realized he meant cool,” Carbajal said. “One of the comments was that the toast station was the best toast station he’d ever seen. That was unexpected, but a fun one.”

Rodriguez said he thinks students will immediately be able to tell the difference between the new dishes compared to the old ones.

“The food is good. It’s fresh. It’s seasonal. I think once they taste it and see the amount of work we put in to produce the food … they’re going to want to eat here,” Rodriguez said.

Photo courtesy of Nathan Foster.

With the addition of APU, Bon Appétit now runs dining management at 13 faith-based institutions in North America. They also have 28 other accounts within 60 miles of APU. This is not their first time handling a big transition like this.

“Normally the transitions have gone well. I think our retention rate for units we’ve taken over in Southern California is probably around 98 percent. We do transition well. Clients stay with us,” Rall said. “With employees that we take on, we do cook more from scratch, so sometimes it can be a learning curve, but it’s beneficial teaching them a skill, so it goes well.”

Rall noted two other big changes from the transition. First, The Truck, APU’s food truck that would serve students on East and West Campuses, will not be returning, at least in the same role. Rall said it will be used for pop-ups and special events when it makes sense. 

Second, Rall said Rodriguez is planning on starting a farmer’s market at APU, which he has done at other institutions. There is no set date for the farmer’s market yet.

“We’ll test it here and see how well it goes,” Rodriguez said. “We like to make it lively. We’ll bring the farmers in and the beekeepers with honey. We’ll make it really cool so you guys can check out everything we bring in and connect with the farmers, so it kind of closes the loop of everything we do.” 

Check out Bon Appétit’s site here to see what else is new.