Bon Appétit Management Company is a food company, first and foremost, so it’s not surprising that chefs get most of the attention around here. But there’s a small army of nonculinary people who are just as important in making “food service for a sustainable future” possible. Bobby Vermette, Bon Appétit’s controller at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, is one of those key players.
Strangely enough, his path to controller started in the kitchen. After running his own catering-intensive bakery, Bobby joined Bon Appétit as a grill cook. Soon after, he asked to swap his out his apron to learn how to do the books. Some were skeptical, but it went exceptionally well. Once he hung up his apron — and thanks to the help of several mentors — Bobby’s rise through Bon Appétit’s administrative ranks was swift.
He became the office manager at the corporate location, then controller/office manager at the much bigger Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), then regional accounting support for Bon Appétit’s other Boston-area accounts. In 2009, Bobby was asked to be the controller at Penn.
“It was very intimidating — such a large account, so high profile,” recalls Bobby. He now oversees 16 profit centers, including not only the university’s residential and retail dining halls but also the two new Pret A Manger locations, the Beefsteak joint venture with José Andrés, and the Tortas Fronteras joint venture with Rick Bayless.
For Bobby, no variable is too small: “We look at to-go container sizes. We look at how we stock our grab-and-go coolers.” Then he laughs. “Wow, I am sounding like such a nerd right now, but I will own that. I love every detail of this job!”
Most importantly, “Bobby has learned how to tell the story behind the numbers,” says Stephen Scardina, Bon Appétit’s Resident District Manager at Penn. “He understands how every variable fits together, and he works with our teams and our client to help them understand the analytics behind a profit-and-loss report — what’s behind food cost, or what’s behind the indirect expenses. It’s a rare skill, and a really important one.”