By Jake Crouse, Copy Editor
Bon Appetit Management Company will replace Aramark beginning June 1 after 19 years of service as dining services provider at Furman.
The change was announced to the Furman community via email March 21. Mary Lou Merkt, vice president of finance and administration, wrote in the email that the decision to reevaluate providers was not necessarily due to complaints about Aramark or its quality.
“Aramark, our current provider, has served the university well since 1997, but it is good business practice to conduct objective and competitive selection processes at reasonable intervals throughout contractual relationships,” she wrote in the email.
The task force designated to evaluate the competitors felt that Bon Appetit would be the best match for a number of reasons, including its commitment to tailoring menus to specific universities and providing high quality foods from local farms.
“They have no corporate recipes,” said Rebecca Vuksta, auxiliary services director at Furman. “Menus are written based on seasonality and availability of regional fresh products.”
“One of the things we’re most excited about is getting to tap into the vibrant food scene in Greenville. We launched our Farm to Fork program in 1999, and since then it have required our chefs to source at least 20 percent of their ingredients from small farms and ranches within 150 miles,” David Viveralli, district manager for Bon Appetit, wrote in an email. “For Furman, we’re looking forward to working with partners like Greenbriar Farms (pork), Taylor Farms (fish), Cane Valley Creek Farm (produce) and Dayspring Farms (flour, wheatberries) to name a few. Many more farm partner relationships will develop as we learn more about the opportunities in the region.”
Bon Appetit also prides itself on sourcing foods from businesses that emphasize sustainable practices, which the administration saw fitting with the sustainability culture at Furman.
The selection process that brought Bon Appetit to Furman lasted 10 months, during which the task force interviewed potential providers, read proposals and allowed for faculty and student input in open forums. Though Aramark was one of the finalists for the contract, the administration ultimately agreed upon Bon Appetit.
Vuksta says the task force even traveled to universities where Bon Appetit operated to make sure it served college campuses in a wholesome way.
“The student satisfaction was very high on each campus, and each campus was unique in its food offerings,” she said.
Although Bon Appetit is not on campus yet, renovations to campus dining services are already in discussion, including an area that previously was not affected by Aramark.
“We are working on exciting plans in the PDen and the Paddock, which we will be ready to show soon,” Vuksta said. “In addition, a coffee concept for the library is in the very early planning stages.”
For those students worried about the fate of their favorite dining hall staff members, the university stipulated that all Aramark hourly employees would be given the opportunity to join the Bon Appetit crew at Furman. Upper management, however, will be reassigned to other areas by Aramark.