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24 Diner, Parkside win airport contract

Friday, December 15, 2017 by Jo Clifton

Despite the angst it expressed over not making a spot at the airport for longtime Austin restaurant Threadgill’s, City Council voted to award the contract for new airport restaurant concessions to HMSHost, the company whose bid included the 24 Diner and Parkside restaurants. The vote was unanimous, with Council Member Ellen Troxclair absent.

In response to questions from Mayor Steve Adler, Aviation Department Director Jim Smith said that Host scored 84.84 points, followed closely by Paradies Lagardère, which scored 84.58 points in the bidding supervised by the Purchasing Department. Host and Paradies are both multinational corporations that operate concessions in numerous airports, including Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Smith noted that the Host contract included 25 percent minority representation compared to 12 percent for Paradies. That was clearly the deciding factor for Council, most of whom have known Threadgill’s proprietor, Eddie Wilson, for years if not decades.

Adler asked Smith if Council would be able to award the contract to the runner-up and Smith told him that it could do that. That would have meant new restaurant spots at the airport for Threadgill’s and another central Texas favorite, Black’s BBQ. But it would have been a loss for the 24 Diner and Parkside.

In response to the mayor’s questions of Smith, Council Member Ora Houston said, “So, mayor, are you saying that the minority contractor in this packet gets pushed aside for the other two?”

When Adler affirmed that that would be the case, Houston said firmly, “I would be opposed to that.” When Adler asked then, “Is there a motion?” Houston made a motion to grant the concession to Host, giving the airport spots to 24 Diner and Parkside. Council Member Leslie Pool seconded her motion.

Each side brought support for its bid, with 18 people signing up to address Council.

Rick Garrett, minority partner for Host, said he and his cousin lost out on a similar bid three years ago, with only a fraction of a point between their bid and the winner.

“We did not challenge the system, we did not challenge the merits of the RFP process … it’s about transparency and fairness. We didn’t have a shot three years ago.”

Even though the competition has been in Austin longer, Garrett said it did not seem fair to allow the second-place bidder to win what they had worked so hard to gain.

“So I ask, who’s going to speak up for me? I can’t tell you that I’m more Austin than anybody else in this room. … This program is designed to help (joint venture) partners to get up and running at the airport. … We just want a shot.”

Bill Casey, senior vice president for Paradies, told Council that his company is already a part of this community, operating a number of concessions at the airport. He said the payroll for those concessions is more than $2 million and he stressed that Paradies gives back to the community, specifically by donating 25 percent of the money it makes from kids’ meals to a program for hungry children called No Kid Hungry.

Rosalind Oliphant, the minority partner for Paradies in Austin since 1999, said, “We’re real proud of the work that we’re doing at the airport.” She said in addition to hiring local workers, her company gives food to local homeless shelters and is a sponsor of Honor Flights for veterans. “So we hope that you will expand our work at the airport to include Threadgill’s and Black’s Barbecue,” she concluded.

Only Council Member Ann Kitchen said she would support Adler’s suggestion to choose Paradies instead of Host. However, finding no more support, he dropped the idea and voted with the rest of the Council in favor of Host.

In addition to 24 Diner and Parkside, the Host bid will bring Torchy’s Tacos, Sushi A-Go-Go and a sandwich shop to the new terminal.

Photo by Larry D. Moore [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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