Wouldn’t it be nice if every time you complained in life, you got a funny and understanding response, and then your suggestion was taken into account? Well, if you live your life within the CC bubble and you want to complain about food, you’re in luck. As you exit Rastall after composting leftovers and delivering dirty dishes, you must walk by a wall covered in bright Sharpie-scribed comment cards. The comment card responses are generally funny, sometimes sassy, and always make for a good end-of-meal read, but more importantly, the comment cards provide a vital space for feedback and conversation between Bon Appétit staff and CC students. Meet the general manager of Bon Appétit, Beth Gentry: the woman behind these hilarious comment card retorts and the sweeping changes in our dining facilities.
When did you start working here?
I started five years ago when [Bon Appétit] got the [Colorado College] account. I had worked for Bon Appétit before, but I quit for a year and a half to run a nonprofit that teaches kids about sustainable development. But then I got a call saying, “We got Colorado College, do you want it?” Initially I said no because I really liked Portland, where I was living. But then I came to visit, snuck into the President’s backyard, and saw the farm. I thought, “We could do some really cool things here.” I moved two months later.
What’s a typical day like?
It’s different every day. I handle any student issues going on and any human resource issues. [Bon Appétit] has 142 employees, so that’s a lot to handle. I also write and manage the budget . . . labor costs, food costs, etc.
What’s your favorite part about the job?
Students. Any time I get to talk to them, for projects or things like that. For example, tomorrow I’m giving a talk to a group of first-generation students. Whether students express opinions about their experience, ask questions about the food, or ask for changes, I love it. I was really excited when we took bottled water off campus. I had wanted to do it, but those sorts of things are best when they come from students. So to partner up like that, . . . it’s perfect.
When did the comment cards start?
Comment cards have always been around, but towards the end of last year, I began responding to them. I can meet with students when they have big issues, but sometimes I get out of the loop of day-to-day needs, like “I want balsamic vinegar.”
They’re kind of fun; they’re my opportunity to respond to people. Lots of times I’ll read things and think, “Why didn’t I think of that? We should trade out spoons for forks when it goes from breakfast to lunch.” Only everyday users can tell us these things. We never used to have Greek yogurt, but on the cards, everybody was like “Greek yogurt! Greek yogurt!” I answered like 100 comments about it. It was like, “Who do I need to talk to get this yogurt?” We finally got it, and the change was 100 percent based on the comments.
When do you respond to them?
I don’t do them at work. I get them all on Wednesday and take them home, and by Thursday or Friday they’re done. I usually sit down and drink a glass of wine with a Sharpie in hand, and answer. I like to be snarky. Some students have started joking back, like, “We want to eat more endangered owl” and I’ll respond with, “Only the baby owls taste good.” It’s fun.
Any particular comments stand out?
Last year everyone hated the square bowls. We got tons of comments about them. And now we have new ones and I keep getting comments that say, “Where are the square bowls? We love them!’ Food is so subjective. I definitely got over Meatless Monday comments. After a while I had to just put a sign out that said, “We’re not getting rid of Meatless Monday.” Tell me how to do what we’re doing better, rather than to not do it at all. We would never have thought to have the omelet bar on Meatless Monday if students hadn’t asked.
Which comments are your favorites to respond to?
[The staff will] get them and read them together, and just laugh. I like when people draw pictures, and the funny ones too. I’ve started to recognize certain handwriting, but I don’t ever want to know who is writing them.
How are the comments used?
Students come to me with complaints and then I go to the employees. For example, a bunch of students will comment, “What happened to the flax seeds?” and I’ll go to the employees and be like, “Why you gotta take their flax seeds away?” And they’ll say, “We were out for one day!” It’s pretty funny. Sprinkles, that’s another one. Everybody really wanted sprinkles, but the staff was worried that sprinkles would turn into chocolate sauce, and then caramel sauce, etc. It became like, “If we can just get sprinkles, everything will be okay.” It’s the small things that make people really happy. If it’s fourth week at the end of a really stressful block and all someone wants are sprinkles, we can do that for them. It makes me happy.