Re: Contracted Dining Hall Management
Jim Sleezer (JHS8@VM1.UCC.OKSTATE.EDU)
Fri, 23 Jun 1995 12:57:46 CST
On Fri, 23 Jun 1995 10:09:22 -0700 Jim Van Hecke said:
>What is your experience with contracting out the dining hall services at scout
I've had experience with several levels of contracted food service (in several
different camps). Some have been better than others and once we worked out the
bugs (no pun intended) all were "acceptable."
Two things were problematic in most locations. The food service people had a
different mission than the Scouts and didn't always understand that they were
part of the camp program and needed to operate accordingly. Second, contracts
often called for the camp to provide cleanup services and some services tried
to take advantage of the camp by defining cleanup as anything the food service
did not want to do.
One food service provided excellent food, but quantities were not sufficient.
We managed to work that out by the third week of camp--they overfed us during
One food service brought in an all female kitchen crew. We managed to get the
staff focused on camp program by the end of the summer!! Actually, it only
took dismissing one staff member who failed to heed the rule that visitors
other than immediate family were not permitted in the staff area! (The woman
was also dismissed for failing to observe her employer's rules.)
The biggest problems we had were when we required the food service company to
support our "cook out" program. We contracted for only two meals a day in
the dining hall. Troops cooked their own Monday lunch, Tuesday breakfast,
Wednesday dinner, Thursday lunch and Friday breakfast. The food service
company was to provide food for the units to prepare. The problem was mostly
with their packaging. They purchased in huge lots and repackaged. But, they
didn't include directions so some units were at a great loss. They also sent
out liquids in "cottage cheese" containers. Several units complained that
came open enroute back to camp. The great laugh was the premixed pancake
"epoxy" that they issued. It was a special liquid mixture that they prepared
in two parts. The troop was supposed to combine the parts in camp to make
pancakes. Once we found out what to do with it, it made great pancakes but
the first day it was used in all sorts of ways. Clearly, we needed to sit
down with the food service company and define what we needed. The result
was that we got them to purchase in "patrol size" lots and issue things that
scouts would find in their local grocery. Because they purchased in hugh
quantities, they got good prices and in the end it worked out well.
One food service wanted to use a lot of individual serving items such as
half pints of milk. We needed to help them connect to the environment.
If I were doing it, I would have them handle the entire kitchen operation,
including cleanup. I would probably try to serve cafeteria style rather than
family style. I would make sure all expectations were in writing and I would
pick a company I could trust, not necessarily the low bidder. I have worked
with some excellent food service managers over the years, and I've worked with
some real jerks.
BTW, one summer we got government commodities, including butter. The site
manager used margarine and took the butter for different operations. We
stopped that as soon as it was discovered and the company replaced the
All in all, if the food service company understands their relationship to the
overall program, it can often be a great deal for the council. For about the
same price, you have a lot less hassle!
Some companies set some pretty high level requirements for facilities and not
all camps have the type of equipment the campany wants. Be sure both sides
know what is available.
I've also eaten in some great camp run dining halls. They are usually easier
to connect to the camp program!!
Probably the best food I've had in camp was at S-F (S bar F) in St. Louis Area
Council. It was all patrol cooking and our meals were great because we got
good food to begin with.
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City