Senate Privatizes Restaurants
Tired of lousy food, inept management, and massive cost overruns, the Senate is going to privatize its restaurants. Like the House did during the Reagan administration.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Rules and Administrations Committee, which oversees the operation of the Senate, said she had no choice. “It’s cratering,” she said of the restaurant system. “Candidly, I don’t think the taxpayers should be subsidizing something that doesn’t need to be. There are parts of government that can be run like a business and should be run like businesses.” In a letter to colleagues, Feinstein said that the Government Accountability Office found that “financially breaking even has not been the objective of the current management due to an expectation that the restaurants will operate at a deficit annually.”
In a masterful bit of understatement, Feinstein blamed “noticeably subpar” food and service. Foot traffic bears that out. Come lunchtime, many Senate staffers trudge across the Capitol and down into the basement cafeteria on the House side. On Wednesdays, the lines can be 30 or 40 people long. House staffers almost never cross the Capitol to eat in the Senate cafeterias.
Operation of the House cafeterias was privatized in the 1980s by a Democratic-controlled Congress. Restaurant Associates of New York, the current House contractor, would take over the Senate facilities this fall. The company wins high praise from most staffers and lawmakers, who say they are pleased with the wide variety of new items offered every few months. Most important to Feinstein, Restaurant Associates turns a substantial profit — paying $1.2 million in commissions to the House since 2003.
So, apparently, if the government hires people, pays them far more than the private sector to do the job, and then guarantees that they won’t be fired, said people will be less motivated to provide good service? And if they are not held to any standards of cost accountability, they will run deficits?
Via Alex Tabarrok