Ferry food is history

While a lot of commuters complain about food service on the Washington State Ferries, the current diner-like cuisine may soon be looked on with nostagia.

As of Dec. 31, current vendor Sodexho is ending its contract with the WSF, raising the possibilities the galleys will be replaced by vending machines or nothing at all.

“We’d like to continue,” said Sodexho spokesperson Leslie Aun. “But the way the business is structured makes it impossible for us to make a reasonable profit. We tried to come up with different ideas, ways to adjust the various percentages, but couldn’t make it work.”

No one will starve to death, as no Puget Sound ferry takes more than an hour to make a crossing. Still, the lack of food service will be a great inconvenience for some, especially commuters who may miss a scheduled meeting because they are stuck in a land-locked latte line.

“It’s unfortunate this has happened,” said Jimmy James, who serves on the Kingston Ferry advisory committee. “But vendors can’t make money on this service. Three or four have tried. Vending machine food tends to be pretty bad, so it’s a shame that no one has been able to make a go at this.”

While James isn’t optimistic a provider will step in anytime soon, he maintains that, “Any vendor who wants to take over this service will be able to pretty much write their own ticket.”

Some aren’t sad about Sodexo’s exit and would rather fend for themselves.

“The ferry food service has lost money because it serves crappy food, not because ridership is down,” said Michael Eversole, a sales associate for Windermere in Bremerton. “People would spend more money on the ferry if there was decent food sold by quality vendors. People are palate savvy in Seattle, and most of them would rather starve and wait until they reach the other side.”

WSF spokesman Patricia Patterson thinks serving quality food on board is a possibility.

“We’ve seen a great improvement in ferry food over the last five or six years,” she said. “Before that, you didn’t even want to drink the coffee. But part of our goal is to provide updated services and get away from the institutional approach to offer a greater variety of food.”

Aun said that WSF is rewriting the proposal request to be more hospitable to potential vendors. She added a new vendor could be in place by next spring.

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