Capitol cafeteria update

The calls for the Department of General Services to tear up Aramark’s Capitol cafeteria contract are growing. A Department of Agriculture inspection earlier this week found 18 health violations, including more rodent droppings.

Republican Representative Tina Pickett sits on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs committee, which held a hearing on the cafeteria’s health inspections woes on Monday – right when DOA officials were making their second round of inspections. She wanted to see DGS void Aramark’s contract after the December inspection, and says in light of a second round of violations, there’s no reason the Philadelphia-based company should be allowed to keep operating the facility.

The Rendell Administration says Aramark will keep its contract – for now. Chief of Staff Steve Crawford says the company has “been put on notice,” and will get the boot if the cafeteria fails another inspection next month. That’s not good enough for Pickett, who says the debacle raises serious questions. “Does it say that there’s some sort of unheard of reason that they might be able to retain that contract? Does it say that our inspections systems are not properly doing their jobs? But I think mostly it says that Aramark is not capable of running a proper operation.”

Here’s Aramark’s full statement on the matter:

We continue to work with the Department of Agriculture and General Services in a challenging environment. All but two of the violations found Monday were corrected immediately, and the remaining items were corrected overnight. The café is in compliance. These DOA inspections are part of an ongoing process to ensure the Capitol café remains a high-quality dining establishment. And we will supplement them with internal audits and surprise inspections by an independent third party.

So let’s take a look at the contract. It mandates the lessee “offer quality products that deliver to the highest level of customer satisfaction.”  It also orders Aramark to “comply with all local, state and federal health and safety standards for food preparation and food service.”

The fact the state provides “equipment and services,” and “will invest in improvements designed to increase sales and profitability”, but only receives 4.5 percent of the cafeteria’s net revenue, is making people even more upset. Republican Representative Carl Metzgar, who also sits on the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, says Aramark needs to go.

Here’s the contract:

About pubradiopolitics
Scott covers state government and politics for Pennsylvania's public radio stations, including WITF in Harrisburg, WHYY in Philadelphia and WDUQ in Pittsburgh.

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