The dining experience at Azusa Pacific underwent significant changes this summer, as food management company Bon Appétit was hired to manage all on-campus eateries. One month into Bon Appétit’s first semester, reviews from students are mostly positive.

Bon Appétit has transformed how on-campus food is sourced and prepared, boasting fresher ingredients and more options for students with dietary restrictions. However, most menus across campus have been shortened overall in the process.

Still, virtually all students praise the quality of the ingredients, at least 20 percent of which are locally supplied, according to Bon Appétit staff.

“Food now is healthier and feels better to eat,” said Caleb Harbin, a junior acting and honors humanities double major.

Harbin’s opinion — and the similar sentiments expressed by all seven students interviewed — come as no shock to junior accounting major Noah Gamiño, a student employee at the The Grill at Heritage on West Campus. Gamiño worked at The Grill throughout the spring semester as well, and witnessed first-hand the difference from then to now.

“The food is definitely better. Everything comes a lot fresher,” Gamiño said. “For example, our chicken breast [used to come] in these packages of precooked chicken. But now we get raw chicken and we have to marinate it ourselves.”

Instead of frying frozen foods, Gamiño now spends a lot of his time cutting fruits and vegetables. Bon Appétit district manager Bob Rall pointed out in August that student employees would become a more important part of the actual cooking process, and that has undoubtedly been the case.

The Market at Heritage offers ready-made sandwiches, beverages and a soup/salad bar. Photo by Jesse Friedman.

Kim Duvoisin, a junior kinesiology major and student employee at The Market at Heritage, has had similar experiences as Gamiño.

“Everything used to be canned or packaged, and we would just open it, basically. And now everything is freshly made and cooked,” Duvoisin said.

In addition to making old food options fresher and healthier, Bon Appétit has introduced some new healthy alternatives.

“I think they definitely gave healthier options this year. Specifically at the [Cougar’s Den Cafe], they added a fruit option instead of fries for the burger line, which I really liked,” said junior cinematic arts major Miranda Allison.

Harbin also praised the increased number of options for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free students. Bon Appétit uses a labeling system to identify food items that meet certain dietary restrictions.

However, with fresher and healthier ingredients have come sparser overall menus, and many students miss the options they once had.

“I … feel like they’ve limited a lot of things. I would usually get … the teriyaki bowl at [Umai Sushi], and then they took that completely away,” said junior cinematic arts production major Brianna Bermudez.

Although options have been cut down at many on-campus eateries, The Grill’s menu has undoubtedly been cut the most.

“I’ve had many customers ask if we have mac and cheese. I get that one a lot,” Gamiño said. “A lot of people ask for the things we’ve had in the past because our menu now is so limited. Now our lunch menu is basically just chicken tenders, grilled chicken, and burgers.”

In addition to those items, last semester’s menu at The Grill also boasted a selection of paninis, pizzas, sliders and more. There were also more varieties of burgers and chicken sandwiches.

On East Campus, the Den’s salad bar has been replaced with a new Mediterranean bowl option.

“In order to get a decent salad, I have to go to the [1899 Dining Hall]…and all I want is a salad,” Allison said.

As Allison suggests, the Dining Hall’s $11.50 buffet is clearly an inefficient choice for a student who only wants one item.

Some students feel that Bon Appétit’s dining options are slightly more expensive than they used to be in previous semesters. 

“I don’t really pay attention to the price. I just swipe,” said freshman psychology major Richard Hernandez.

Hernandez’s experience is a potential side effect of purchasing a dining plan. Some students develop a habit of swiping their student ID to purchase food, and lose touch of the amount of money they are actually spending.

“I didn’t ever really pay attention to price before because we had to have such large dining plans [as freshmen],” said Harbin, referencing APU’s policy that all freshmen residents must sign up for one of the two most expensive dining plans.

Regardless, there is currently a lack of consensus among students on whether or not the cost of food has actually increased under Bon Appétit’s management. Dining Services did not fulfill a request for food menu prices from previous semesters.

Ultimately, the arrival of Bon Appétit on campus promised fresher ingredients, healthier menus and more accessible options for students with dietary restrictions. Students generally agree that the food management company has delivered on these fronts. However, students also miss the variety of menu items they once enjoyed. 

Perhaps Bon Appétit will eventually deliver on this front too. Only time will tell.

This is a developing story and will be followed up with an analysis of the cost of food on campus.