Supporting a local business is a good feeling. Consumers who visit up-and-coming shops are able to indulge in the culture of their surroundings while contributing to their local economy. This concept having its convenience in the Marketplace, coupled with flavors that are hard to find elsewhere on campus, is the reason why I loved eating at Chick-N-Bap.
After a recent discovery that their lamb-over-rice bowl actually has no lamb, though, I am more than disappointed in the Chick-N-Bap organization. In fact, for operating under such an outright lie, I am questioning whether or not this eatery has any respect for their customers.
Being born and raised in New York City, I didn’t realize how for granted I took the food around me until I got to Binghamton University. In just three blocks from my home in Brooklyn, I have the options to eat Vietnamese, Halal or Russian cuisine. In BU, when I would not have time to experiment a recipe for myself, I frequently visited Chick-N-Bap to try some new flavors. Over time, I would speak highly of this establishment and tell all my friends to go try it. I was loyal to Chick-N-Bap, but are they loyal back?
According to a 2015 survey conducted by news platform Elite Daily, millennials are the most brand-loyal generation this country has seen. We are drawn to companies that are authentic — which makes sense. U.S. culture has seen corporations use loopholes and politicians use “alternative facts” to get things to be their way, despite issues of legality.
Millennials grew up alongside endless food scandals — like Taco Bell’s “where’s the beef?” fiasco and McDonald’s usage of beef tallow in their french fries, which they claimed were vegetarian — so it’s no surprise they still happen to this day.
In a world where corporations want to be labeled as people but their highest concern is maximizing their profits, I shouldn’t be surprised that Chick-N-Bap is following a business model of dishonesty similar to larger companies.
Yet, a part of me is quite surprised and angry. One reason for my astonishment is because I recognize Sung Kim. I see him constantly in the seats around Chick-N-Bap. In my mind, every time I saw him sitting and observing his company, I always commended his diligence and assumed he had a large role to play in the daily operations of the restaurant. His apology revealed this to be semi-true.
Kim seems genuinely apologetic, and him being a young entrepreneur does excuse this oversight but it also raises concerning questions: How regulated is Chick-N-Bap? Don’t employees prepare a clearly marked package of beef before Chick-N-Bap opens, and then proceed to take orders from customers, some explicitly ordering lamb? The connection that a wrong kind of meat was being prepared should have been made sooner, especially considering the switch from lamb to beef was made last semester.
Another reason for my anger is because it took two student-workers to speak up for this to be an issue in the first place. Is there anything else customers aren’t in the know about? At $7 for a plate, Chick-N-Bap isn’t the cheapest food option on campus to buy from. The price of convenience should come with transparency, and crucial information should not be issued alongside an email after workers chose to speak up.
Though I am more offended than inconvenienced that Chick-N-Bap sold beef under the guise of lamb, there is a considerably large Hindu population at BU. I cannot speak for them since I do not identify with their demographic, but I am well aware that beef is forbidden in Hindi diets. Above all else, perhaps they are owed a personal apology. Kim wrote, “I truly apologize to all the students at Binghamton University, especially to those who were affected.” I appreciate the apology and maybe it is enough for some people, but actually acknowledging the specific demographic of students “who were affected” would have given the apology a stronger sense of solidarity.
I implore Chick-N-Bap, and every food establishment on campus, to follow a route of transparency moving forward. Putting out an ingredients list, making nutrition facts more identifiable and owning up to potentially fatal mistakes like this one are a great start. A huge part of the food industry revolves around customer service, and dishonest actions are the best way to lose those customers. Mistakes are inevitable, but owning up to them and going the extra mile to show affected consumers that they are thought about is important.
Haralambos Kasapidis is a senior majoring in English.