Happy 30th Birthday, Bon Appétit: The Premier Onsite Restaurant Company

When speaking with a Bon Appétit family member, inevitably we ask, “How are you doing?” A common reply, delivered with a smile, is “Living the Dream.”

Regional Vice President Randy De Mers, then and now

Of course, we mean our Dream. There is so much behind the Dream statement, I find myself going back to it often. It stirs a passion in me. Do I want to be the best? Who doesn’t? The reality is, the Dream points us in a direction and the complacency of the world does its damnedest to knock us off course.

Living the Dream is exasperating, thrilling, and a source for passionate commitment to excellence. We are the best brand in the United States. Many others believe they are part of the best brand: the reality is, they’re living in a complacency nightmare. Making great food, delivering great service, being committed to socially responsible practices, and providing a safe work environment is not for the complacent. We have all witnessed the transformation of staff when we take over an account; clients comment on the change in attitudes – they have been awakened from their complacency. Those that fail to embrace the commitment move back into the complacency nightmare.

“We have all witnessed the transformation of staff when we take over an account; clients comment on the change in attitudes – they have been awakened from their complacency.”

For me it all started in 1995 with a call from Cary Wheeland and Michael Bauccio. They were just “checking in” to see how I was doing. I had worked with Michael at Saga in the late ’70s and ’80s; he was my vice president in Colorado and California. Michael and I agreed to meet when he, Fedele, and [the late Regional Vice President] John Engstrom were in Pittsburgh for some meetings. We were going to discuss opportunities on the “East Coast.” After being cornered in a booth for an intensive two-hour Bauccio session about Bon Appétit, they asked me what I thought. I told Fedele that his Dream sounded amazing if it were true. I asked what city they were considering when they referred to an “opportunity on the East Coast” — Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Miami? They told me Grove City, PA. Well, to those of us who live in western Pennsylvania, that’s not “East Coast.” My conclusion 22 years ago: The Bauccios know food, they are geographically challenged, and Grove City College sounded like a great career step.

Fedele, Michael, and Liz have always challenged us to do what was right by our partners. In the last five years, the challenge has increasingly focused on creating “experiences” for our guests. Whether at an education, corporate, or specialty operation, the challenge has been to execute the delivery of the Dream in exceptional ways; beyond the scope of day-to-day operations. Food trucks, Dub Boxes, pop-up restaurants, dueling dessert events — take the experience up a notch, however we can.

There are many exceptional stories I can share that reflect a commitment to excellence. One example: the way our teams at Savannah College of Art and Design and Emory University executed service for our 1,000-plus students and staff that evacuated Savannah to Atlanta during Hurricane Matthew. We could have delivered commodity service with packaged meals and bottled water. Instead, they provided service that was over the top for 48 hours around the clock! Seafood extravaganzas, carving stations, cooked-to-order omelets, and boxed lunches to and from the Savannah campus were a few of the above-and-beyond efforts. And they did it all with 12 hours’ notice and little sleep.

The one thing I want new and old Bon Appétit family members to remember is that complacency is our enemy. Our biggest threat is the loss of our passion as complacency creeps in. Our commitment to delivering exceptional guest experiences every day gives me great hope that the next 30 years will be a continuation of our Dream and this amazing and historic company.


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