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NPS concessionaires...

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NPS concessionaires...
February 21, 2015 08:40AM
Why is the food so universally bad in our national parks? It’s true that they located in difficult places: food deliveries are going to be limited and expensive. But there has to be more to it than that. On our last trip to Death Valley, we waited more than forty minutes to be served a BLT at Stovepipe Wells, and when it arrived it was stone cold. The next night, at Furnace Creek, our salads and entrees arrived at the same time, within three minutes of ordering them, and well before our drinks made it to the table.

It’s as if nobody in the dining room is paying attention. And it’s not just that we’re from Napa, and used to better things. As we look around the restaurants in our national parks, we see looks of confusion and bewilderment on the faces of all the customers. Why is it so hard? And yeah, I include the mediocre pizza in Yosemite Valley.

The worst restaurant we have ever visited is the one at Grant’s Grove in SEKI. A few years ago, they were simply a disaster from beginning to end: bad reception, lousy service, and terrible food, all bundled up into one restaurant. And the prices in these places are way above what you would pay anywhere else. In Death Valley, one steakhouse is asking more than $65 for a steak—and given the rest of the operation we can’t imagine that it was very good. Two days before we had eaten at Harris Ranch in Coalinga—not exactly the culinary capital of the Western World—where the steaks were certainly better, and certainly less expensive. And the service was attention, and the whole thing worked.

We wish that SOMEBODY were paying attention to this, but they are not. Sure, it might be hard to get good staff to work at a national park, (Really? Wouldn’t bright young people want to do this for a season of adventure?) but there seems to be almost no training of the people they do hire. And there seems to be no supervision in the dining room. Again, nobody there is paying attention…



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Re: NPS concessionaires...
February 21, 2015 09:55AM
I suppose the economic answer is that the concessionaires don't believe they will make more money if they invest in better products, better services, better employees, training, etc. The customers who visit are "captive" with very little choice. Most of the time when I have been to Yosemite, the Curry Village Dining Hall is packed with people. If they transformed it into a world class restaurant, they probably aren't going to get many more customers.
Re: NPS concessionaires...
February 21, 2015 11:40AM
Probably can't expect great food in a place called Death Valley...
avatar Re: NPS concessionaires...
February 21, 2015 05:45PM
Quote
AnotherDave
Probably can't expect great food in a place called Death Valley...

Had lunch there today. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. Mostly it was pricey.
avatar Re: NPS concessionaires...
February 22, 2015 01:32AM
Quote
balzaccom
Why is the food so universally bad in our national parks? It’s true that they located in difficult places: food deliveries are going to be limited and expensive. But there has to be more to it than that. On our last trip to Death Valley, we waited more than forty minutes to be served a BLT at Stovepipe Wells, and when it arrived it was stone cold. The next night, at Furnace Creek, our salads and entrees arrived at the same time, within three minutes of ordering them, and well before our drinks made it to the table.

It’s as if nobody in the dining room is paying attention. And it’s not just that we’re from Napa, and used to better things. As we look around the restaurants in our national parks, we see looks of confusion and bewilderment on the faces of all the customers. Why is it so hard? And yeah, I include the mediocre pizza in Yosemite Valley.

The worst restaurant we have ever visited is the one at Grant’s Grove in SEKI. A few years ago, they were simply a disaster from beginning to end: bad reception, lousy service, and terrible food, all bundled up into one restaurant. And the prices in these places are way above what you would pay anywhere else. In Death Valley, one steakhouse is asking more than $65 for a steak—and given the rest of the operation we can’t imagine that it was very good. Two days before we had eaten at Harris Ranch in Coalinga—not exactly the culinary capital of the Western World—where the steaks were certainly better, and certainly less expensive. And the service was attention, and the whole thing worked.

We wish that SOMEBODY were paying attention to this, but they are not. Sure, it might be hard to get good staff to work at a national park, (Really? Wouldn’t bright young people want to do this for a season of adventure?) but there seems to be almost no training of the people they do hire. And there seems to be no supervision in the dining room. Again, nobody there is paying attention…


I haven't eaten at Stove Pipe Wells since they switched concessionaires from Xanterra to NEG282, LLC (dba Death Valley Lodging Company). But when it was operated by Xanterra the service at the Stovepipe Wells restaurant (and bar) was fine and the food was above average compared to other restaurants located inside National Parks.

Furnace Creek is still operated by Xanterra and while service has always been very iffy at the pricey Furnace Creek Inn, I've always found it to be alright at the less expensive restaurants located in the Furnace Creek Ranch complex. Go figure.

.
Re: NPS concessionaires...
February 22, 2015 06:53AM
After yesterday’s post, we did want to share a great place to eat in Bakersfield. Yes, Bakersfield. As we drove along highway 178 across town, we noticed a small café: the 24 St. Café. It isn’t hard to find. It’s on 24th St. and Highway 178. And it is everything that a small café should be: lively, fresh cooked food, inexpensive, hearty portions, friendly and helpful service. It is only open for breakfast and lunch, and even on a Wednesday it was pretty full at 12:15. But they squeezed us in at the counter, gave us our delicious lunch with a smile, provided some welcome driving directions, and had us on our way in less than 45 minutes. You can’t ask for more than that, and everyone in that restaurant was enjoying the experience, from the customers to the staff. And yes, the owner was present and paying attention to the customers with a smile.

In Stovepipe Wells we would have been just biting into our (cold) food. And paid double.



Balzaccom

follow our adventures, read our blog, or just to come hang out at our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Re: NPS concessionaires...
February 22, 2015 11:32PM
Re: NPS concessionaires...
February 23, 2015 10:04AM
If you ever find yourself in the Badlands NP, South Dakota don't pass up the Buffalo tacos made with Indian bread. Excellent! And I think its the only place to eat in the Park.
Re: NPS concessionaires...
February 24, 2015 11:09PM
I have asked myself that same question so many times. High prices can be due to location but not necessary the quality of food. If you think about it, everyone’s food has to be shipped to the places they are sold at so the further away it is to distribution points it will cost more but then how it is tastes is more dependent on who is cooking, the quality of ingredients and what kind of place you eat at. I have found that generally, cafeterias no matter what park you go to are usually not that good. I have had great dinners and service at the Mural Room in Grand Teton, Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim, Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Mammoth Hotel and Old Faithful Dining Rooms. The brunch at the Mural Room in GT far outshines the brunch at the Ahwahnee and is less expensive. Bryce has the worst food and service of all the places we have been to. Zion food is good but not outstanding but they do have great service. The last time we were there, a mistake was made with my dinner and they fixed it and didn’t charge us and even gave me a piece of cake. In general, I think that most of the eating places in Yellowstone are good and some really good and so is the service, with the exception of the grills that are run by DNC. Even the lower price eateries at Grand Teton are good. One place in Grand Teton that I no longer would suggest is Signal Mountain Lodge which is run by another concessionaire and last year the food and service were horrible. I guess my point is that park food does not have to be bad and neither does the service. As for Yosemite, it is probably the most expensive park to eat at across the board and in general the food appeal seems to decline each year. I have written them numerous letters through out the years and nothing changes.
Re: NPS concessionaires...
February 26, 2015 08:04PM
A little tangential to the topic of this thread but has there been any news on the concessionaire contract renewals in Yosemite?
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