School lunches could take tips from high-end B&I accounts

Bon Appetit's CEO thinks with a little more money, school lunches could be as good as Google's.

April 11—Fifty years ago, a cheap lunch ladled onto a tray was a decent enough perk at premier American companies, such as Ford or Eastman Kodak. Today, that wouldn’t do in Silicon Valley, where in-house “cafés” have become a microcosm of modern cookery: a dedicated staff of bakers at Cisco, for example, or an Indian chef at eBay preparing curries spiced by decades of experience.

This shift from an industrial approach towards food, in favor of one that’s more handcrafted, illustrates how American ideals about labor have changed—and also, how institutional food went haywire in the bargain. “Food service used to be purely about workplace productivity,” says Fedele Bauccio, the founder of Bon Appétit Management, a company that quietly staffs many of Silicon Valley’s swankiest corporate cafeterias, including eBay, Oracle, and Yahoo!, and over 200 universities. “Now, it’s about creating a sense of community.”

Bauccio believes these ideals could translate to the nation's school cafeterias. Bauccio insists that this decentralized approach to food service is replicable and estimates that it would require only a 5% to 10% labor increase for most institutions, with some savings coming from smart, direct buying.