Choice of McCormick Place feeder is challenged

CHICAGO An unsuccessful bidder for the 10-year, $300-million foodservices contract for Chicago's McCormick Place convention complex is challenging the selection of a rival group that includes Levy Restaurants and other local restaurateurs, the Chicago Tribune reported today.

The paper said that Buona Cos., the foodservice concessionaire for Chicago's Navy Pier attraction, sent a letter to the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, disputing the fairness of the McCormick Place selection process. Buona reportedly asserted that the Levy group had an inside track with Metropolitan, which owns McCormick and the Navy Pier. The authority is known locally as McPier.

“It remains clear that the process was created in the beginning to ensure that Chicago Restaurant Partners LLC would be rubber-stamped,” the letter was quoted by the Tribune as saying.

Levy has held the feeding contract for McCormick Place since 1990. The other members of Chicago Restaurant Partners are locally based Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants Co. and Airport Restaurant Management Inc., a minority-owned firm with a 10-percent stake in the deal.

Buona was part of a bidding consortium that also included the Sportservice division of contract-feeding giant Delaware North Cos. But Delaware North said it had no part in drafting the letter.

"We were not aware of any efforts to notify any of the agencies of changes to the process as it was conducted," spokeswoman Kerry Hassen told Nation's Restaurant News. "That was something that was done without our knowledge.

"Delaware North was a partner with Lakeshore Hospitality when it entered a proposal with some local partners,” she said. “To our understanding the selection committee made its final decision and Levy was chosen."

Under the new contract, food sales at McCormick Place are expected to reach $28.5 million annually.