Pipe Dream uncovered that Chick-N-Bap, Binghamton University’s popular student-owned food vendor, has been misleading students about the contents of some of its food.
Sung Kim, ‘14, Chick-N-Bap’s founder and CEO, told Pipe Dream that the lamb option on the menu actually contains no lamb, and instead is a ground-meat product made primarily of beef. Kim claims that the switch from lamb to beef occurred as a “business decision” made toward the end of last semester.
Chick-N-Bap operates as a subcontractor under Sodexo, the company that controls Dining Services on campus. While Chick-N-Bap is technically its own legal entity, Sodexo works closely with the vendor to help supply its meat. Most students eat at least some, if not most meals from dining halls and vendors overseen by Sodexo. Students place a large amount of trust in the company.
Previously seen as a model of student entrepreneurship at Binghamton University, Chick-N-Bap has set a poor example for student business. While it may or may not be legally responsible, we believe that it is crucial for the company to subject its food services to careful scrutiny and due diligence, something that it failed to do in this case. This weakens the level of trust that students have with the dining services on campus.
Chick-N-Bap’s actions are a major breach of ethics and trust on multiple levels. It’s highly unethical for a business to mislead customers. Students who purchased the dish paid for lamb meat and received a product that contained an entirely different substance. In other words, they were taken advantage of and paid for a product that they never received. Meanwhile, the company profited by providing faulty information to its customer base.
Even more troubling, Chick-N-Bap sells its food to people of all backgrounds and beliefs, some of whom are forbidden from eating beef for religious or cultural reasons. Those who trusted the menu may have unknowingly violated their own belief systems. This is no minor business error — it is an unacceptable form of deceit. Even those not personally affected should be outraged for their fellow students who were.
Neither Chick-N-Bap nor Sodexo made an effort to inform customers of the menu alteration and allowed the dish to be sold for an extended period of time. It was only after Pipe Dream contacted Chick-N-Bap that any effort — namely, placing a piece of tape over the misleading part of their menu — was made to address the situation.
As Chick-N-Bap takes measures to correct its menu, we await a student response. While the business cannot retroactively fix the harms it has done, it can be held accountable for its actions. Far too often, businesses are able to bypass ethical codes and get away with few consequences.
If we are to encourage students to pursue business ventures on campus, these codes must be respected, and under no circumstances can they be bypassed. We hope that students will rise to the occasion and respond appropriately.