CWRU dining options losing community connection

This summer, Munch, the small family restaurant which previously resided in Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law, closed down after losing a bid to retain the space.

The restaurant provides a saddening farewell on their website. In prominent green, it says, “Thank you for supporting us at CWRU.”

Our campus’ professed food provider is currently on the march to dining hegemony. With the closing of Munch, CWRU dining service Bon Appétit and other preferred caterers like Taste of Excellence hold almost complete control over every on-campus eatery with hardly any exceptions. Taste of Excellence is set to take over Munch’s previous space, which for 15 years had served visitors unique salads and wraps from their lunch menu.

The Observer staff believes that this hold over campus eateries is harmful to the CWRU students’ dining options and to CWRU’s stance of friendliness to the surrounding economy. On-campus restaurants are an opportunity to integrate CWRU students with the surrounding area. To do the opposite is not in the interest of the CWRU administration; it’s difficult to understand why so much control has been given to Bon Appétit and other preferred caterers like Taste of Excellence when the resulting effect is to appear hostile to our neighboring restaurants.

This is not to say that these companies do nothing for students at CWRU. This week, Bon Appétit pleasantly surprised the campus with a re-designed Grab it! The once slow, cramped eatery now has more than enough space in its large streamlined format. Two lines now exist and students can grab their drink after swiping, saving time; there is also more space to effortlessly access silverware, condiments, bags and the microwaves. In the past, the line has regularly extended outside Sears and the company’s recent developments show that it is aware of student concerns. Bon Appétit also has a convenient way of allowing students to provide feedback in both dining halls, and their chefs have regularly attended Residence Hall Association food forums in the past. The Observer staff recognizes that these actions are a result of a dedicated staff that watches over all Bon Appétit locations.

What needs to be addressed is that Bon Appétit and CWRU’s preferred caterers are creating a monopoly that could undermine future improvements, reduce food quality and damage the relationship between CWRU and the surrounding community. Bon Appétit has complete control over all eating locations in Tinkham Veale University Center and Tomlinson Marketplace and also owns both Cramelot in Kelvin Smith Library and the Sages café. Additionally, excluding extreme circumstances, any catering must also be done by Bon Appétit for events in dining halls and residence halls. For other locations, CWRU’s Bon Appétit catering website suggests that it is understandable for a different preferred caterer to be used for “rare occasions.” The preferred caterer’s website lists all caterers equally and alphabetically, excluding Bon Appétit which is, conveniently, bumped to the top of the list.

Even before the list, the first text on the site provides a link to Bon Appétit’s website and their phone number.

It states, “It is suggested that they be used for any catered function or affair.”

CWRU’s stance toward catering by other restaurants is openly unfriendly. Right now, small or family-owned restaurants are not only kept off campus, they are frowned upon when providing to the campus from nearby. In a city which thrives on its dining scene, it’s a shame that CWRU continues to limit opportunities to include locally owned eateries in campus buildings.

Bon Appétit controls over 15 eating locations on campus, some of which could be opportunities for CWRU to integrate local restaurants. By that, we mean fully locally owned and run. While Melt University brought a local title to TVUC, its quality has suffered under Bon Appétit’s management when compared to the locally-run restaurant.

Still, Bon Appétit can be forgiven for attempting to increase its dominance. As a company, it is understandable for it to act in its own self-interests.

While it may be understandable economically for CWRU to align itself with a sole food provider, the university must recognize that to do this is to forgo an opportunity to integrate the surrounding community and provide for its students. The closing of Munch remains a sad testament to CWRU’s unneighborly dining attitudes.