Starting in October, Bon Appétit led a major launch trying to recoup lost items. Pamphlets were placed on tables in Stav Hall letting students know that more than the roast beef in the Home line had been disappearing from the cafeteria.
China plates and coffee cups have been walking out in large numbers, with the help of students. Bon Appétit has purchased 2,000 coffee mugs along with other dining ware since this September, and the first semester's replacement budget has already been spent.
This year, there have also been late-night food thefts.
"There are four occasions that I know of where people have stolen items from [Stav Hall] after hours," said Hays Atkins, general manager for Bon Appétit at St. Olaf.
Most items students attempted to steal were soda and armfuls of cereal bags, but on these four occasions, the perpetrators were caught before exiting Buntrock Commons. Bon Appétit is now working with the college to make that area of the commons more secure.
"A lot of students are in the building after nine o'clock, and we'd never wanted to close the building," Atkins said. "We're looking at different options."
Atkins said that the replacement of food and china affects more than Bon Appétit.
"This is a community," Atkins said. "Diverting the resources in one area throws the rest out of balance."
Atkins explained the budget replacement: When Bon Appétit's budget goes towards replacement of stolen items, less money is available to sponsor dinner events, such as bands and bingo.
However, after the first posting of the fliers stating the large number of thefts since September, many students started returning plates and silverware. And, according to Atkins, Bon Appétit would prefer students to return items instead of buying dishware to replace what is missing.
Although Stav Hall thefts are decreasing, Bon Appétit has had to face another problem this year in a staffing shortage. "At about every meal we're 12 to 15 student workers short," Atkins said. "We've always wanted to support the student work program, because that is a key to the St. Olaf financial process."
However, because of the shortage of student workers, Bon Appétit has been hiring more full-and part-time staff. If the problem persists, Atkins said that they would continue to hire part-time employees to fill the gaps that student workers would otherwise fill.
"We've always been kind of bottom rung for choices for student workers, but a few students who like [working in Stav Hall] stay behind from year to year and continuing working here," Atkins said.
Regarding the thefts, Atkins stressed that, in the end, "the more you make it cost, the more its going to cost you."