According to founder Sung Kim, ‘14, Chick-N-Bap is the most popular spot for students in Binghamton University’s Marketplace. But since the end of last semester, customers who purchased lamb over rice may have not received what they paid for.
Several employees of both Chick-N-Bap and Binghamton University Dining Services (Sodexo) told Pipe Dream under condition of anonymity that Chick-N-Bap’s lamb-over-rice bowl has no lamb at all. The ground-meat product served alongside the classic chicken is in fact Devanco Foods Gyros Slices, which features beef as the primary ingredient and does not contain any lamb.
Kim said that originally, Chick-N-Bap offered lamb as part of its menu, but changed this toward the end of last semester as part of a “business decision.”
“We started out using gyro style lamb product for the first semester in the Marketplace [Fall 2016], and we continued to use that product with the switch happening towards the end,” Kim wrote in an email.
Despite this, Chick-N-Bap did not change its signage to reflect the fact that its product no longer contained lamb. Since being contacted by Pipe Dream, the word “lamb” has been taped over on the menu and replaced with “gyro meat.”
“Even though the gyro style lamb products all contain beef to an extent and our menu is in the process of being approved, we will put on a disclaimer sign thanks to those who spoke out,” Kim wrote.
Kim said that he has been slow to change the sign because he is working on becoming compliant with a Food and Drug Administration regulation that requires businesses to post calorie-count information prominently on their menus, and that the approval process was taking a long time.
Pipe Dream attempted to order a lamb-over-rice bowl on two separate occasions, both before the menu was changed, to observe if employees would inform us about the contents of the product. On both occasions, no employees indicated that the product is made from beef. We then proceeded to directly ask if the product contains beef. In one instance, the employee responded that it did, and in the other, the employee responded that it did not.
“It’s always just called lamb behind the counter,” said one employee. “I’m not sure if most of the workers know it’s beef.”
Jim Ruoff, resident district manager for BU Dining Services, said that while Dining Services will continue to support Chick-N-Bap, it will insist that Kim corrects his menu to accurately reflect the products that he sells.
“While not directly responsible, Sodexo expects its contractors to abide by all truth in advertising standards and will insist that Chick N Bap corrects its menu sign as soon as possible,” Ruoff wrote in an email.
According to Kim, the product in question was purchased by BU Dining Services to be used by Chick-N-Bap.
“We order from Sysco as part of our contract with Sodexo,” Kim wrote. “Sodexo has agreed to help our business out by optimizing our ordering process with their bulk pricing.”
Some customers said that they thought it was wrong of Chick-N-Bap to advertise its products in this manner.
“Personally, I don’t really mind,” said Devin Edwards, a sophomore majoring in psychology. “But I think it is pretty messed up just because if someone can’t eat beef, or if they don’t eat it for religious reasons, that wouldn’t be all right.”
Hindu customers, many of whom do not eat beef as part of their religious practices, were particularly impacted by the mislabeling.
The halal-style eatery first entered the Marketplace last year after humble beginnings as a pickup service run by Kim. In spring 2015, Sodexo allowed Kim to sell his dishes from the struggling Wholly Habaneros location due to his success during a pilot run at Hinman Nite Owl.
Once Kim’s business relocated to the Marketplace, it continued to thrive, at one point selling over 1,800 dishes each weekend. His success grew Chick-N-Bap to the point that it became its own legal entity that now operates as a subcontractor of Sodexo and is open six days a week. The business is currently exploring expansion options, including the possibility of opening similar locations at other universities.
Click here to read Sung Kim’s apology letter