In defense of Bon Appétit

Bon Appétit is a polarizing presence on campus, to say the least. Some love it, some hate it. While many offer scathing critiques of Bon Appétit’s aggressive business practices, others choose to gripe about the quality of the food.

Maybe it’s the “Lawrence Bubble” that makes us lose   perspective all too quickly. Maybe there are too many brats—as in, like, whiny children, not the popular Wisconsin dish, of which there are also arguably too many.

Still, there are plenty of students who seem to lack appreciation for the top-notch dining service that we are privileged with. To the harshest critics, I ask: What’s so bad about Bon Appétit?

Maybe it’s the quality of the food. First, consider the fact that all of us are in college. For the first time in our lives, we’re supposedly tasting the real world. Maybe your mattress is going to be a little stiff. Maybe you’ll have to stand out in the cold when somebody burns the popcorn. Maybe the pinto beans are going to be slightly al dente.

That’s part of the experience of being in college. Not every aspect of your life is going to be immensely luxurious. At some schools, having really flaccid, boring and heartburn-inducing food is just another minor inconvenience that college students shrug off as a fact of life

Having a salad bar, pasta, chili con carne and healthy vegan options everyday, along with other dishes, is an exceptional and outstanding luxury that Lawrentians enjoy. Yet, I hear many Lawrentians complain about various digestive issues with Bon Appétit’s food. Eating a balanced diet is easy when so many healthy options are readily available. It’s a wonder that so many students here choose greasier options at the café and complain later on.

Another possible gripe is the price. Criticisms of Bon Appétit’s pricing options come in many forms. Some say that it nickel and dimes us at every turn. Others complain that we pay $1500 for $1000 worth of food. Others wish they could have a smaller, less expensive meal plan.

There’s a reason it’s expensive, which brings me back to my previous remarks about the quality of the food. Maybe I’ll pay an extra $2000 in loans ten years from now because Lawrence chose Bon Appétit over some other food service company. However, I’ll be happy I did because I didn’t wreck my organs from eating pizza and ramen every day for four years.

Enrolling in this school is a choice we all made. When we searched for colleges, there were a lot of factors to consider in our decision, including access to basic needs such as food, healthcare and stores to suit our demands.

When we decided on Lawrence, we agreed to be customers of Bon Appétit. Those with serious concerns about Bon Appétit maybe should have considered their choice more carefully.

Finally, many complain about Bon Appétit’s questionable business practices. Bon Appétit is effectively a monopoly. However, aside from slight price increases, this really does not affect the welfare of Lawrence students in the way monopolies usually do in a larger economic environment. Unfortunately, from time to time, there are price increases, as there are with grocery stores and restaurants as well.

Although, in theory, a competitive food market on this campus would benefit the students, it isn’t feasible to have two catering companies competing on such a small campus.

Bon Appétit recognizes that it is a monopoly, and understands that the key to success is working in harmony with the campus. That’s why it creates employment opportunities for students, offers competitive pricing for catering and strives to continually improve on a business model that works well for our school.

In such a small, isolated environment, we often lose perspective on where we are in the world and how fortunate we are to live in comfort, safety and luxury. Even in Appleton, some struggle to eat, shelter themselves and stay healthy.

Because Bon Appétit is a part of our daily life, we like to complain about our food like we complain about the hot water running low or the weather. However, it is important to consider that behind the corporate, faceless presence of Bon Appétit is a group of individuals working to provide a quality dining service to Lawrentians, even if they haven’t reached perfection.