A fight over food on the Washington State Ferries

SEATTLE -- The current, local vendor that provides all the food for sale on the state ferries is about to be replaced by an out-of-state company -- and some people are not happy about it.

Olympic Cascades Services (OCS) is based out of Bremerton and for the past 11 and a half years it has been providing food on state ferries. In March, the company’s contract with the state wasn’t renewed.

Washington State Ferries is required to bid out the contract for ferry food every 10 years. This year, the state chose a new vendor from Connecticut.

However, the local company is hoping the governor will step in because they feel the bidding process wasn’t fair.

“I would say the concessions are very enjoyable part of the ferry ride,” said Kaitlin McCarthy, who lives in Seattle and had just finished eating a hot dog aboard the ferry to Bremerton.

On most ferry rides in the Puget Sound, hungry riders can count on the concession stand.

“It’s been really, well, sometimes they’re out of the items I want, but I think you get that anywhere depending how busy they are,” said Jillian Taylor, who commutes via ferry several times a weeks.

When Olympic Cascades Services’ contract ended in March, the family-owned company didn’t pack up and leave. Instead it went to court to file an injunction, asking for a rebid on the contract and to keep the new company from moving in.

“Besides us, there are several other small companies who will also be put out of business,” said Nove Meyers, president of Olympic Cascades Services.

“Half of the people we employ would be displaced; the other half we do not know, but we have serious concerns that they’ll maintain the livelihood that they have enjoyed for the past decade with us,” said Susan Meyers, Nove Meyers’ daughter and director of communications for OCS.

OCS said it wants an investigation to look at the proposal again from the new company, Centerplate.

An attorney for the family-owned company said they were challenging the idea of the best bidder.

“We went with the best proposal and the court has backed us up on that all the way so far. We believe Centerplate will bring in more money for state taxpayers and provide better quality food than what’s happening with the existing contract,” said Ian Sterling, spokesperson for Washington State Ferries.

OCS has sent Gov. Jay Inslee a petition with nearly 13,000 signatures, asking the governor to stop OCS from being replaced by a multinational corporation.

However, a spokesperson for the governor’s office said Inslee will not get involved because the Washington State Ferries is managing that process.

“Bottom line, food at the ferries is good and it’s nice to enjoy a hot dog with the view,” added McCarthy.

Once the injunction expires on Wednesday night, and the governor hasn’t stepped in, OCS will get 30 days to keep serving food and then have time to move out, before Centerplate can move its equipment in.

The state ferries is hoping it can all be done without a disruption to service.