New management brings change to Bon Appetit eatery

Robyn Repya

A 20-year veteran of the restaurant management business, Jeff Sliter saw an opportunity in Dinkytown’s Bon Appetit.

The restaurant has undergone several changes since Sliter’s Feb. 1 acquisition, drawing both praise and some discontent from employees, customers and neighboring businesses.

Sliter said when he bought the business he could see much needed to be done.

“When I walked in, I wasn’t too impressed,” he said.

Sliter said he has kept the same staff, but he’s keeping them busier.

“I have them do cleaning they
didn’t have to do before,” he said.

College of Liberal Arts senior Jason Kokal, an employee at Bon Appetit for the past three years, said although the food is better, the environment at work has changed.

“It was more laid-back before,” he said. “I guess it was funner before – there was more craziness,” he said.

Kokal said the later hours kept under the previous owner brought a wider range of people to the restaurant. He said without music or alcohol, the changes were bound to bring a different clientele.

Brian Keller-Heikkila, a frequent customer, said he was surprised and disappointed by the discontinuation of beer sales at Bon Appetit.

He said some of the alterations make the business look nicer, but he hopes not much is changed in the future.

“I liked it the old way,” Keller-Heikkila said. “I just hope they don’t raise the prices.”

Michael “Milkman” Shank, a senior in the art department and manager at Jerry Raskin’s Needle Doctor – located next to the restaurant – said he’s noticed fewer kids hanging around in front of the restaurant since the switch in ownership.

Skott Johnson, owner of Autographics Printing and Copy Center in Dinkytown and president of the Dinkytown Business Association, said he’s excited about the new owner and has noticed improvements to the property.

“Any little spot that has some extra charm to it is good for Dinkytown,” he said.

Sliter said when he purchased the restaurant the landlord made clear that music and alcohol were not options.

“I knew it would have a huge effect (on business),” he said.

To counter that, he said, he’s working on boosting food quality and making the restaurant a cozier place with the possible addition of couches to the stage area.

Sliter said it is important his patrons feel like the restaurant is a clean, inviting place to visit.

Sliter said he isn’t changing the whole menu, but something needed to be done about the quality of food. Specifically, he said, he’s using different kinds of bread, meat and yogurt.

He said the decor also needed a lot of work. Sliter has already repainted the interior and added foliage throughout the restaurant.

Sliter said he doesn’t plan on raising prices in the future, but he does plan on expanding the staff from nine current employees to approximately 25 to 30.

“Because of the area, I’m going to have a good opportunity to have a great staff,” Sliter said.

Sliter said his experiences with the four other restaurants he’s owned have helped him realize what it takes to run a successful business.

“You can’t sit in the office. You’ve got to be a part of it,” he said.

Robyn Repya welcomes comments at [email protected]