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

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Maryland will begin offering weekly specials at all of its dining halls this semester, The Diamond Back reports.

The weekday specials will allow Dining Services to offer past menu items that students miss as well as new dishes students have been requesting, according to a spokesperson.

Students can find out which specials are being offered each week via dining hall table tents as well as through Dining Services’ social media. During select weeks, the specials may reflect a particular theme, such as Taste of the South.

Read the full story via...

Menu Development
chicken tetrazzini bowl

The No Whey station in the main dining hall at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga., offers students meals that are free of the eight most common allergens. When Brittany Parham, the dietitian who oversees the station, polled food-sensitive students on which favorites they missed most, “comfort foods” was the overwhelming response. Parham, who herself has food allergies, worked with chefs on the 20,000-student campus to focus on allergen-free versions of pasta bakes, biscuits, banana bread and other down-home dishes. Recently, the chefs reworked the school’s traditional chicken...

Ideas and Innovation
university chicago medical center renovation workers

As The University of Chicago Medical Center prepared for the revamp of one of its kitchens to feed an additional 202 patients, it wasn’t just foodservice executives coming to the table to make decisions. The process, which began in fall 2014, involved hourly employees from the ground up, says Daryl Wilkerson, vice president of support services. “They actually helped build this [kitchen], which is why I think this is so spectacular,” he says. “Normally what you’ll get in a lot of projects is senior people sitting around in shirts and ties making decisions.”

The hospital follows the...

Ideas and Innovation
idea bulb innovation concept

There’s no feeling quite like the “spark of inspiration” that Dawn Aubrey , associate director of housing for dining services at the University of Illinois, cites in this month’s Steal This Idea-themed cover story. That rush of blood and endorphins to the brain when everything comes together is like nothing else, and often finds me falling over furniture because I’m so excited to start putting plans into action. Unfortunately, I also bruise easily.

Throughout this issue, we’ve highlighted stealable ideas in all realms of noncommercial foodservice, from protein-focused sides to...

FSD Resources