Atherton employees speak up about Bon Appetit management

Since the transition from food providers Aramark to Bon Appetit, some dining services employees have voiced their concerns about their new parent company. Collegian file photo. 

EMILY SCHLORF  | STAFF REPORTER | eschlorf@butler.edu

Several employees who previously worked for Aramark and now for Bon Appetit in dining services see the new management style as unaccommodating. The issues include being understaffed and overworked by Bon Appetit, and not being paid enough for their work.

Since Bon Appetit has replaced Aramark, many employees have noticed they are understaffed. This turned into longer late night shifts for employees. 

Jarrett “Junior” Powell works in Bon Appetit’s utilities, a job that includes dish washing and disposing of waste. Powell was originally a dishwasher for Aramark.

“Bon Appetit is actually really a good company, but they need to understand that the utility [department] can’t do it all,” Powell said. “They force everything on utility to make sure that we pick up the pieces. I understand that utility is a big job, but we all gotta go to sleep and get time off.” 

Powell said he felt overworked because Bon Appetit understaffed workers, assigning all the work on to as few as three employees for night shifts. 

“We gotta stay out here until 10, and they still expect us to stay longer,” Powell said. “Last night I didn’t get out until 10:30 and [my shift was supposed to end at] 9. I wanted to leave but I knew if I left, well…”

Powell’s sentence trailed off as he looked away with a sigh. 

Matt Barnes is the director of operations and oversees both Butler Dining Services and Bon Appetit as one unit. Barnes said Bon Appetit is actively recruiting new employees with Butler, including students. 

“With everyone coming back to school and all eight of our units opening, we are trying to see where we have opportunities to hire more employees and where we should retract employees,” Barnes said. 

Even with the understaffing issues, Powell said the utilities crew has to stay at work longer than the cooks, but utility still gets paid less.

A month and a half working for Bon Appetit, Powell still had not received his work card, which meant he was not getting paid.

“Don’t nobody need to actually work without getting paid,” Powell said. “If you want us to work, we need to get paid.”

Denise Kimbrough, known as Miss Denise to many students, formerly worked in C-Club and now works in ResCo. When Kimbrough was first interviewed by the Butler Collegian, she expressed her displeasure with Bon Appetit and said she was looking for jobs elsewhere on campus. Two weeks later, when interviewed again, she said there have been some positive changes but improvements still need to be made.

Kimbrough has since been moved to ResCo and now feels that “things are evening out.”

“I was upset because I didn’t want to come back [to Butler dining services], and when I came back they made me do jobs I didn’t want to do,” Kimbrough said. “But other than that, I am giving them a chance.”

Kimbrough is 59 years old, which is not old enough for social security. So she needs this job. She needs to sit down sometimes and does not want to be running around all the time, either.

“If you want perfection, you gotta pay it too,” Kimbrough said. “They not. If you pay these people, including myself, and they really work, then you won’t get no b*tchin’ or people saying ‘I’m not doing that because you ain’t paying me enough.’ That’s what’s starting to happen now.” 

Kimbrough has been a Butler dining employee for eight years, but she was not listened to when she made suggestions.

One day, 800 people came through Atherton Marketplace. Bon Appetit employees offered suggestions to management, but management refused to listen.

Kimbrough said when they made suggestions on how to prepare for the crowd, they were told “thank you for your concern, but we know what we’re doing.”

Kimbrough recognized that dining services is a hard industry, and with Aramark, there were some members of management that treated them well and some that did not; she thinks it is the same situation with Bon Appetit.

“I really believe that them being here, they’re going to show us their teeth until next year when they find out how things really are around here,” Kimbrough said. “They only see us as ‘you just work here.’ They don’t understand, they don’t know. But they need us.”

A Bon Appetit food preparation employee, who requested to be anonymous for job security, said a lot more people still need to be hired. She once saw a coworker running two stations and sometimes, only a limited amount of food is prepared by the time students come in.

One week, she worked over 40 hours, which she said is not supposed to happen.

The anonymous source said she is going to stay because as her fiancé tells her all the time, “patience is a virtue” — so she’ll hang in there. She feels blessed that Bon Appetit hired her, especially because Aramark wouldn’t.

“When it comes to a job, I think I’m kinda blessed,” she said. “With me being a felon and a single mom, it’s hard. I’m blessed.”

She said more people would talk to the Butler Collegian, but they’re scared of losing their jobs; however, she doesn’t like bullies and she likes to fight for people’s rights.

Barnes said when it comes to complaints, concerns and suggestions, Bon Appetit has an open-door policy and a suggestion box for employees. 

“Any time something comes up, we work through the issues and talk through solutions,” Barnes said. “We listen to the employees and listen to what they ask for and try to accommodate as much as we can from a business level.”

Barnes stressed communication. There are meetings every morning and afternoon to talk with all employees and what is happening for the next few days.

“We’re here to fix things and make their work lives easier, but we also need to know what struggles they’re going through to be able to do that,” Barnes said.

Lynne Murphy, a food service provider in Atherton, is the vice president of the Unite Here union.

Unite Here is a union for food service providers, like the employees of Bon Appetit. The benefits of participating in Unite Here include seniority and protection with clear guidelines from unfair treatment. 

“Aramark works the prison system,” Murphy said. “They controlled us like robots. Bon Appetit is restaurant management. They want us to take time to talk with the customers.” 

Barnes said everyone is considered a Unite Here union member and they’re covered by the union’s insurance, whether they contribute to the union or not.

“They doing better,” Kimbrough said. “Not where they should be, but they coming.”

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