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Published: 11/7/2000

Local firm, 2 others bid on turnpike plaza space

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BEREA, O. - The Ohio Turnpike Commission's second request for proposals to operate restaurants in two of its new service plazas has resulted in only one offer for a sit-down restaurant even though the turnpike didn't ask for financial minimums this time.

Turnpike officials received three proposals from concessionaires interested in the Brady's Leap and Portage travel centers in Portage County, and only Toledo-based Advanced Restaurant Concepts, Inc., included an offer for a sit-down restaurant.

HMS/Host Toll Roads, Inc., of Bethesda, Md.; Advanced Restaurant Concepts, and McDonald's Corp. of Independence, O., were the same three firms that submitted bids when the turnpike sought restaurant bids during the summer.

“We haven't seen, as we would have liked, additional bidders bidding,” Gino Zomparelli, the turnpike's executive director, told turnpike commissioners during a meeting yesterday.

In an attempt to increase the number of proposals, the turnpike did not ask concessionaires to tell what percentage of gross receipts they would be willing to pay to the turnpike commission. Bidders were also not required to post a bid bond.

Instead, interested firms were asked only to identify which restaurant brand or concept they might place in any or all of four food-court spaces plus the travel centers' sit-down site. The commission's cut of the restaurant revenue was to be negotiated later.

Mr. Zomparelli said he and the commission had hoped that relaxing the bidding might elicit new proposals from the major restaurant chains, or from smaller, independent restaurant operators.

But the major chains seem content to use Advanced Restaurant Concepts, part of the V/Gladieux corporate family, or HMS Host as a middle man, Mr. Zomparelli said.

Other restaurateurs, he said, apparently are scared off by the fact that they would lease, not own, the turnpike facilities.

Representatives for Cracker Barrel and Bob Evans have said previously that their firms' general practice was to own all of their restaurants.

In the new bids, Advanced Restaurant Concepts proposed Wendy's for the food courts and Denny's for the sit-down restaurants at the two travel centers, which are under construction.

HMS Host proposed Starbucks Coffee, Flatbreadz bakeries, and Burger King restaurants for the food court spots and proposed either a Travel Mart gift shop or a Bijoux Terner jewelry shop for the space designated in turnpike commission plans for the sit-down facilities. McDonald's proposed one of its fast-food restaurants and Espresso Time Caf restaurants in the food courts but made no proposal for the sit-down sites.

While some of the restaurant spaces could go back out for a third round of bids, Mr. Zomparelli said turnpike staff are anxious to have at least one food-service vendor operating in the travel centers by Memorial Day - in time for the traditional start of the summer travel season. When the plazas open earlier in the spring, he conceded, they may only have fuel, restrooms, and vending machines.

Earlier during yesterday's meeting, the commission awarded a $6.84 million contract to the E.S. Wagner Co. of Oregon to rebuild the State Rt. 795 and Oregon Road bridges over the turnpike in Perrysburg Township.

Blaze Construction of Berea won a $4.25 million contract to renovate the Exit 34 toll plaza near Wauseon. Mosser Construction, Inc., of Fremont received contracts totaling $833,450 for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing work at the toll plaza.



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