The big cheese at Bon Appétit keeps the cheese from students

Madison White

The meal exchange program at The Spot is a welcomed change for students who are tired of dining at the Campus Inn (CI). The program began last Spring as a collaboration between Dean of Students Joel Pérez and General Manager of Bon Appétit James Dial to give students more options. 

Students are able to use a swipe from their meal plan and substitute it with the designated entree of the evening. All meals are served with a drink and french fries, a side salad or tortilla chips upon request. This offer runs Monday through Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and is intended to give students an alternative to the traditional dining experience, although it’s not without its limitations. 

Students are only allowed touse the meal exchange once a week, and no changes can be made to the order. Extras and add-ons are common to other entrees from The Spot, such as cheese and avocado. The downside to the meal exchange is that there are no add-ons or substitutions allowed, even if the student offers to pay out of pocket. 

In fact, students are not even allowed to have singular items removed from their meal, such as lettuce from a burger – they can either have all the vegetables or none at all. The only substitution that is allowed is a swap from a regular hamburger for a veggie burger, to accomodate non-meat eating students. 

Add-on restrictions weredecided by Bon Appétit in an attempt to minimize stress on the cook, due to the high participation in the meal exchange program. However, all other items at The Spot are made to order, and due to the increased activity in the café during these times, it is unlikely the cook saves a substantial amount of time by not adding a slice of cheese to a burger.

Instead, it has caused frustration amongst students who sacrifice the variety of options served at the Campus Inn, only to be denied minimal additions to their meal. “I think it’s unfair because you’re paying for a full meal anyway that would get you into the Campus Inn for an all you can eat dinner,” senior Kimberly Charos said. “Now they’re offering Meal Exchange, but it’s not really the same value if you can’t customize it the way you want it to be. If they don’t have enough time or staff to do it then they need to hire more employees for the Spot so these problems can be fixed.”

From a monetary standpoint, students are not benefiting from using the meal exchange plan. Dinner at the CI is valued at $10, and to get a comparable value from the meal exchange is nearly impossible. For example, a hamburger is offered twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays), and is identical in every way to the regularly featured Poet Burger combo, valued at $6.49. Even if all the extras were added, the meal would still total $8.76 (bacon, cheese and avocado costing $0.49, $0.99 and $0.79 respectively). 

The price is not what upsets students, though. The Spot employee, Marty Gardner, who often works during the meal exchange hours said, “Nobody is complaining that add-ons aren’t free,” Gardner said. “All the students offer to pay for it out of pocket to get what they want, but we are not allowed to even ring up the additions in a separate transaction. They have to be accompanied by an entirely different meal.” A lack of flexibility in menu orders through the meal exchange is actually keeping Bon Appétit from reaping the benefits of add-on charges. 

Students can direct their comments or complaints to Bon Appétit via comment cards located inside The Spot, or they can go online to and send in their thoughts.