By Catherine McLaughlin
In the spring semester of 2016, Furman ended its 19-year contract with Aramark, replacing the dining service with Bon Appétit. The news brought mixed results from students. Some said they had seen improvements in Aramark’s service and therefore feared a new service would take a series of trials to reach a positive student consensus. Others looked forward to the change.
Since it began its services in the 1980s, Bon Appétit has grown into a recognizable and successful food service management company to corporations, museums, venues and universities, such as Furman. Bon Appétit’s website states: “We provide responsive service; fantastic, from-scratch food; and responsible sourcing practices.”
In ties to its company mission, Bon Appétit at Furman has taken an active part in the South Carolina Upstate’s recent farm to table movement, turning to local farms in the Upstate to source the ingredients found in many of the Dining Hall’s dishes. Bon Appétit has also turned to the Furman’s on campus farm not only to cook, but to inspire dishes based on what is in season. Whether it is serving Furman Farm spinach in the salad bar, turning to Greenbrier Farms for the pork in some of its home style dishes or turning mint from the Furman Farm into mint chocolate chip ice cream, Bon Appétit is taking a fresh and creative spin on typical college dining.
So what’s the student consensus?
Senior Sandy Clement has enjoyed the switch.
“I’ve noticed a huge improvement in the DH since my freshman year! The home cooked options used to be so bland and the salad bar had really limited options. Since the switch to Bon Appétit, I feel like the quality has gone up a ton,” she said. “I’ve been really impressed with how far it’s come since I literally used to eat pasta and pizza all the time my freshman year since it seemed like the only option.”
In addition to Clement, other students have had similar remarks. Sophomore Jake Reilly said that he thinks the quality of food is better with Bon Appétit. As a Furman athlete, he added, “There is plenty of protein and the food is healthy for the most part.”
Sophomore Gabe Silveira agreed with Clement and Reilly. “I definitely think it’s better than last year,” he said. “I do think it was a lot better in the beginning of the year, but it’s still pretty good.”
“I think the quality of the food has improved because it’s more fresh and local with Bon Appétit,” sophomore Julia Cianci said.
Despite these positive changes, Furman students say there needs to be more dining variety.
“The only bad thing is that they have the same stuff every day. It’s good stuff, but it sometimes gets kind of old,” Silveira said. “I think they need more variety throughout the week. A lot of times they will have the same food four out of five days a week, or very similar foods.”
Cianci agreed that she thought there was a lot more variety last year. Fellow sophomore Robbie Grecco agreed and said that the Dining Hall has an overall lack of variety.
Another complaint which many students have is the limited dining hours, especially on weekends. “They definitely need to make some changes to have better hours,” Cianci said. “I think Bon Appétit also needs to put a 24-hour food place on campus even if it’s something super small and simple.”
In addition to the Dining Hall, Bon Appétit has brought other new changes to Furman’s dining scene. It replaced the Paddock with a Tupelo Honey Café, turned Southern Pressed Juicery in the PalaDen into Grinders Sandwiches and recently unveiled plans to create a library café opening in the fall of 2017.
Though some students miss Southern Pressed Juicery’s smoothies and energy bowls, a lot of students are happy with the PalaDen changes.
“I love the new sandwich place in the PDen,” said sophomore Rish Agarwal.
Cianci also said that she likes Grinders sandwiches, and generally goes there more often for meals than she did for Southern Pressed Juicery last year.
“The old Paddock is definitely a lot better now that it is Tupelo Honey,” Cianci said. Agarwal agreed.
While students are generally looking forward to the new library café, they are not excited about the changes underway to Einstein Bros. Bagels. “Furman, don’t take away Einsteins!” Agarwal said. “I am looking forward to the new coffee place but I don’t want to see Einsteins go.”
“I am intrigued by this new library café,” Cianci added. “I am excited, but I will miss Einstein’s.”
Silveira agreed. “I’m sad Einstein’s is leaving and am really hoping the next place is just as good.”
While the first year of Bon Appétit has certainly brought its mission of fresh, scratch-made and locally sourced food to Furman, there remain some concerns that students hope the food service will be able to address next year. Students with any comments or suggestions for Furman dining are encouraged to speak with dining staff or leave a comment on Furman’s Bon Appétit page at http://furman.cafebonappetit.com.
Note: A previous version of this article stated incorrectly that the Einstein Bagel Bros. location would be replaced by a Chick-fil-A restaurant. This is not the case, but plans for the vacant space are underway.