Bon Appétit promotes local with Mercantile

Published in FSD Update

Bon Appétit Management Co. has partnered with a group of local artisans to create a program that may have legs beyond the Marin County, Calif., area in which it currently operates.

Called Mercantile, the program has allowed Bon Appétit to sell a variety of jams, jellies, salsas and other items made from local and, often, organic foods. The idea came from Bon Appétit’s CEO, Fedele Bauccio.

“I got the idea from a partnership we formed with former Bon Appétit chef Merrilee Olson, who started a company based around working with farmers in Marin to preserve their excess produce via jams, sauces and pickles,” Bauccio says. “I thought Merrilee’s stuff was so great we should help her distribute it, and that got me thinking that a lot of our corporate guests are pressed for time. We could support local artisans like Merrilee and give our guests some great products they could pick up easily.”

So Bauccio asked Carrie Buckley, the company’s director of merchandising and décor, to develop a retail experience within a Bon Appétit account to show off and sell such products. Buckley’s team created Mercantile and set it up inside Lucasfilm’s headquarters in San Francisco.

“It is a small setup within the café,” Buckley says. “We use some cards to tell the story of each of the artisans and we also have gift wrap, ribbons, cards, etc., because we knew that sometimes people would be buying items to give as gifts.”

A mason jar-shaped chalkboard calls customers’ attention to Mercantile, and the unit, although small, has a sort of country-store look to it.

Buckley says that sales have been bolstered by some marketing tactics, such as using some of the foods in menu items being served in the café and bringing in some of the artisans to do tastings and demos.

“Our goal is to take this mobile,” she adds. “That way we can keep it fresh and new—people might get bored with it if they saw it all the time—and work on the seasonality. We’d like to use not only the canned and jarred stuff but also more fresh product and work in more of our farm-to-fork program.”

Buckley notes that the concept could be replicated in other parts of the country, so long as managers and chefs can make the connections with local farmers and artisans. “Right now we’re trying to do this in the Northwest,” she says.

More From FoodService Director

Menu Development
induction cooking nuts

Thanks to prolific fast casuals such as Chipotle, guests have come to expect a certain level of customization in their dining options. For almost 50% of Generation Zers, customization is a deciding factor when purchasing food, according Technomic’s 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report . Taking customization even further, operations are handing over even more control to customers with both build-your-own and cook-your-own stations.

Elder Hall’s My Kitchen station at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., offers a daily rotating ingredient bar with items such as stir-fry,...

Managing Your Business
business marketing concepts drawing

Sharp, smart marketing materials can make all the difference when it comes to drawing a big crowd for a menu launch or upcoming event. With more avenues to cover than ever and fewer resources to go around, operators offer their tips on making marketing work from start to finish.

Start with communication

Whether it’s an in-house marketing department, an outside agency or someone on staff wearing the marketing hat part-time, the right people need to be involved early and often. “Marketing doesn’t always have a seat at the table [like] it should in order to be truly effective,” says...

Menu Development
health food medicine stethoscope

For the last two years, Chris Studtmann has jockeyed between Northwestern University’s residential dining halls and athletic training tables in his role of executive chef, trying to meet the health and food preferences of both sides. Now, his team is taking best practices developed for the sports teams to the 20,000-plus student population, working with dietitians from the school’s contract company to better sync healthy menu choices with lifestyle needs.

Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report shows younger consumers are especially tuned in to functional foods that...

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

FSD Resources