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
eggs

Loyola University Maryland took a new approach to all-day breakfast with an egg-focused concept.

Breakfast options were top of mind for students when asked what they would like to see on the menu at the university’s revamped Boulder Garden Cafe. Instead of creating an all-day breakfast station, however, the Baltimore-based dining team went beyond traditional options and created a concept that services all mealparts with eggs.

“It can be somewhat mundane,” says Executive Chef Don Crowther on why the team strayed away from the trendy all-day breakfast. At the eatery’s Sunny...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Kansas has added a retail pass that allows students to purchase one to-go combo meal per day at cafes and markets on campus, the University Daily Kansan reports.

The pass is available on two different meal plans and is geared toward on-the-go students who don’t have the time to sit down and eat at a residence hall.

“It has increased the participation rate,” Jamie Reed, a service assistant for the school’s dining services, told the University Daily Kansan.

Over 1,800 students have used the pass since its debut at the beginning of the semester....

Industry News & Opinion

The University of Minnesota dining team has created a vegan student group in an effort to improve the school’s vegan offerings, Minnesota Daily reports.

The group was created by the school’s foodservice vendor, Aramark, and its campus sustainability coordinator, who is vegan, after receiving numerous complaints from students about the lack of vegan options on campus.

The group will this week host its first meeting, during which members will be able to share feedback and provide solutions to help enhance the school’s vegan offerings. Members will also keep a photo journal...

Industry News & Opinion

Panera Bread Co. announced today that it intends to buy the Au Bon Pain brand as a way of opening more bakery-cafes in colleges, healthcare facilities, office buildings, travel centers and malls.

Au Bon Pain, which was Panera’s sole business under an earlier incarnation of the company, consists of 304 bakery-cafes. Several units are located in noncommercial venues.

Panera owns or holds the franchise rights to about 2,050 restaurants, few of which are located outside of strip malls.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Immediately after the deal was...

FSD Resources