Bon Apetit adjusts dining options, frustrated students sign petition

In July, Campus Living sent an email to the Lewis & Clark community with some information regarding changes to the meal service. There has since been contention regarding this big change amongst the LC student body.

The Trail Room is now open from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m Monday through Friday. It takes cash and credit purchases, as well as student meal cards. It offers some of the old favorites such as pizza and grill, as well as some new additions, including smokehouse BBQ and noodle bowls. Maggie’s is now serving meal equivalencies of hot food items, including oven toasted sandwiches and “global bowls” from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Fields Dining Room will now remain open until 8 p.m. for dinner Sunday through Thursday nights — Friday and Saturday closing time will still be 7 p.m.  

The biggest complaint regarding these changes has been the early closure of the Trail Room. According to ASLC Treasurer William Witmer ’20, these changes have engendered some frustration in the student body.

“From data I gathered last year as a student senator, I know that there are students who used the (Trail Room) to get away from the loud, highly-populated Bon to help with anxiety or other issues stemming from large amounts of people and noise,” Witmer said. “I know this will affect the student-Bon Appetit relationship.”

Witmer said that it would be better to return to the former hours to mitigate anxiety for some students and help alleviate the large number of people in the Bon.

“Personally, I have witnessed how large the lines have gotten in the Bon, and that is quite frankly annoying,” Witmer said. “For example, I waited around 15 minutes after entering to receive food in either line.”

According to ASLC Community Service & Relations Coordinator Violet Betters ’20, the student body is unhappy with the meal service changes in part due to longer lines and limited dining options.

“I don’t think that it is likely to be changed back anytime soon, but I’m hoping that due to the outcry from students, some changes to the current situation will be made,” Betters said. “Eating in the Bon is becoming increasingly difficult for those who have time constraints due to long lines and the alternative options in Maggie’s are very limited. The quality of our dining experience here at LC is being diminished by this change.”

Due to the discontent surrounding the new dining hall hours, an LC student started circulating a petition on Facebook. So far, the petition has reached over a quarter of the student body.

“I started it because I have heard constant complaints and ridiculous stories about how dining at Lewis & Clark has gotten so much worse, specifically in the last year since the Trail Room closed for dinner,” they said via email, preferring to remain anonymous.

The petition is open to everyone in the community to sign; many parents and guardians of students have also signed the petition and left comments.

According to the student who started the petition, as well as other LC students, the Bon has become a major inconvenience for student athletes or students with evening classes or extracurriculars.

“Without any alternatives other than Maggie’s inadequate meal equivalencies, lines have been consistently around 30 minutes long and the quality of the food has declined drastically,” they said. “Students are receiving tiny portions of hastily-prepared food because the Bon (both facility-wise and employee-wise) is not equipped to handle the sheer volume of students forced to eat in the same place at the same time. (Everyone) should be getting a meal based on their meal plan which they paid for. It’s ridiculous and we deserve better.”

Multiple people across the LC community have commented on the petition online, including donors and parents.

I am an alumni, and a donor and am very upset that the Trail Room is closed for dinner, and will now re-evaluate my donor status,” Joel Schooler wrote.

“As a parent I am concerned about the restricted availability to meals my student is experiencing this year — its (sic) concerning when class schedules make it difficult to get the meals I’ve paid for because the dining room options have been changed,” Wendy O’Connor wrote. “Please reopen (sic) the Trail Room!!”

“As an athlete in a sport that has practice for the majority of the evening, eating at the Bon during dinner hours is not practical,” Davis Blackmon ’19 wrote. “Maggie’s has started serving ‘bowls’ as a late dinner alternative, but the options are very limited, and it seems it usually takes 20-30 minutes before your food to be served due to either long lines, or Maggie’s running out of rice or meat and needing to prepare more.”

“I have band and orchestra from 6-9 and have a place to eat afterwards was great last year,” Jemma Goddard ’19 wrote. “Please open it and save LC musicians.”

“Students who work jobs (even on campus) need flexibility in hours,” Juliet Wilhem said. “I regularly worked shifts through the 5-7 Bon hours during the school week and relied on the [Trail Room] for dinner.”

The student who started the petition hopes the LC community will sign and support it.

“I understand that the budget is tight this year, but that should not come at the expense of the students who pay tens of thousands of dollars to attend college here,” they said. “It’s pretty ridiculous. Everyone I have talked to (and I mean everyone) agrees.”

General Manager for Bon Appétit at LC Mac Larry said that these current long lines are a repetitive pattern that they see at the beginning of every academic year. They are alreading noticing the lines spacing out between the time frame of 5-8 p.m.

“The first couple of weeks of school, every single year, we have massive lines throughout dinner because everybody shows up at the very beginning of dinner,” Larry said. “And we can never stay caught up serving the food. Students learn that they don’t have to come right at 5, and so they space themselves out a lot more. That’s a historical thing that happens every year. Another compounding issue is that we’re hiring employees as we go back into the Fall. We rely heavily on student employees. We don’t have any school employees when school starts and so the first (few weeks is) hiring students and scheduling them and training them.”

Larry said that they look at overall food trends and traffic patterns on campus when considering decisions to modify meal services.

“A big part of (what) we look at (is) the numbers of students on campus,” Larry said. “A couple years ago, there was a huge incoming class — a record number. And to accommodate that, we worked with the school to open the Trail Room for dinner. That’s the only reason we ever opened the Trail Room for dinner. And so, really, we’re just going back to the ways things were with smaller class numbers. But to offset that, we put some new programs (at Maggie’s).”

Executive Chef Michael Palmer noted that the new options at Maggie’s are healthier than ordering a burger and fries or pizza from the Trail Room.

“We took the hot toasted sandwich program that was in the Trail Room and moved that up (to Maggie’s),” Palmer said. “(Now) we also have the loaded rice bowl, which is rotating weekly with a different theme for it. It’s a nice big hearty meal. And there’s a lot of protein in the (bowls), too.”

They are keeping Maggie’s open now until 10 p.m. to accommodate students who have practices and other extracurriculars that end at later hours. Larry hopes that the LC community will give these changes an opportunity to work out.  

“Change is good, but it’s always a challenge,” Larry said. “So we look at it as opportunities. We have to work through and give them a chance. So if everybody just gives the changes a chance, we’ll see how it goes.”  

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