Shane Powers, Bon Appétit’s new account support manager, takes students’ food concerns personally.
Powers often walks around the dining hall during mealtimes, asking students about their experience and if he can do anything to make it better.
“That’s actually a personal thing of mine,” Powers said. “I take great pride in the food that we serve. If I serve you the food, but don’t come out and actually talk to you, the food could be bad if I don’t get feedback.”
Powers, in his fifth year with Bon Appétit, came to campus to make sure Hillsdale’s food service is meeting the company’s new guidelines. Powers has also aided Bon Appétit in presenting students with new vegetarian, gluten-free, and non-dairy options. He has opened several Bon Appétit locations around the country, but his primary work is based at Albion College, a small liberal arts college about 40 minutes north of Hillsdale.
“We have certain standards and expectations to achieve,” Powers said. “We use a program to make sure everything is uniform and consistent at all our locations.”
Expectations range anywhere from the number of proteins and toppings at the salad bar to ensuring a certain amount of dairy-free options at each meal.
To start, Bon Appétit introduced the new Market area as vegan and dairy-free. The “Market” now features many different types of beans, vegetables, and grains that weren’t offered before.
“We’re filling a need for certain vegan and vegetarian students as well as those with dietary restrictions,” Powers said. “A part of the student population wanted that service, and we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from students that have that need.”
Sophomore Caleb Ramette is one of the students whose dietary needs Bon Appétit has met.
Ramette said that starting this year, Powers has helped streamline his communication with Bon Appétit.
“When I met him for the first time, he immediately introduced me to the new chefs and we talked about how we could work together,” he said.
Every meal, he meets with a chef to figure out which specific foods are okay for him to eat. “I met Shane for the first time and he immediately agreed to help me in any way possible,” Ramette said. “I see him almost every day in the dining hall and he always asks if he can do anything to improve the dining experience.”
Powers also helps freshman Elizabeth Hughes with her dietary restrictions. A week before coming to Hillsdale, Hughes found out she was allergic to dairy and eggs.
“Shane has said ‘hi’ to me everyday and made sure I have everything I need,” she said. “He’s offered to cook me special foods in case I can’t have anything that the cafeteria offers.”
Hughes explained that even foods like vegetables and meat often have butter or dairy in the sauces.
“Sometimes they’ll take some vegetables or meat out for me specifically. He’s given me access to special sections in the cafeteria for people with dietary needs,” she said. “I really enjoy also knowing him. It makes me feel taken care of. I’m not just another face.”
Powers said the best part of his job was leaving the kitchen to talk with the students.
“I’d actually like to spend more time in the dining room talking to students and staff about how everything is than anything else,” he said. “That’s how I meet the students and get to know them.”
Since Powers has been at Albion, he came up with ideas to make their finals week less stressful.
“During midterms, I drive around in a golf cart from 8 p.m. to midnight and give out coffee and hot chocolate.”
Powers said he’s been working on a couple of projects at Hillsdale, too. He hinted at a trivia night: “like getting Charger cash for answering questions at a meal service.”
Over the past few weeks, Powers said he’s gotten to know some groups of students pretty well, particularly the women’s volleyball team.
“By being out there with them I get to know the team,” Powers said. “Their coach just put them on this restricted meal plan a couple weeks ago. I didn’t know that, so I baked them three dozen chocolate chip cookies and brought it out to the table. But the day before the game they’re not allowed to have any extra sweets.”
Powers spends about an hour during each meal talking to students about their experience. The rest of the time he helps out around the kitchen, making sure everything goes smoothly.
“My job is to make sure that every aspect is running right. I make sure the dish room is running good, the staff is doing good, make sure the food is nice in presentation, make sure we’re not running out of things.”
Powers said that everything he does from expanding food variety to baking cookies for the volleyball team is for the students.
“I like interacting with the students a lot. Ultimately, they’re the ones that are paying me, and I’m there to make sure they’re happy. That’s my job.”