Catering companies continue to protest Salt Lake County bidding process

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Participants crowd the halls of the 3rd annual Silicon Slopes Tech Summit, at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center. Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019.

An out-of-state catering company has tentatively been awarded Salt Lake County’s multimillion-dollar food service contract.

But before Centerplate can officially become the exclusive caterer of the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City and the Mountain America Exposition Center in Sandy, it must wait while a protest — by a competitor — is resolved.

Utah Food Services, which had held the county contract for the past 25 years, filed a protest after learning that Centerplate was awarded the deal. It asserts that the selection committee’s most recent decision — a redo from 2019 — was marred.

UFS officials said in a prepared statement that the committee’s decision violates the county’s mission to “attract, retain and grow businesses in Salt Lake County.” Centerplate is owned by Sodexo, a publicly traded conglomerate based in France.

UFS’ current contract with the county ends in June. The company says if its complaint is denied — and Centerplate gets the seven-year contract — it stands to lose 92% of its revenue and result in layoffs of more than 250 of its 350 employees, many of whom are Salt Lake County residents.

The county is reviewing the UFS complaint, said Jason Yocom, procurement director. “As we review the protest," he said, “we are still within the procurement process and do not yet have an executed contract.”

Yocom said he did not know how long the review and resolution would take.

This is the second time a catering company has questioned the selection process. In April 2019, Salt Lake County issued its initial request for proposals and received applications from three companies. The bid was ultimately awarded to Utah Food Services.

The process was canceled in August after Chicago-based Levy, one of the losing bidders, filed a formal protest. The company said its bid had been unfairly scored and that members of the county’s selection committee were biased.

Levy said it was passed over for the contract because two members of the selection panel were listed as references for Utah Food Services and, in one case, penned a letter of recommendation that was included in the incumbent’s bid.