In one House cafeteria, closed doors and cardboard boxes. In another, red, white and blue balloons.
Sodexo, an international food vendor, officially took over the House dining services Monday, causing a number of areas to close for construction while posting new signs and decorations in the cafeterias that remained open. “We are pleased to be able to provide a variety of food options for staff and visitors during the construction process," House Chief Administrative Officer spokeswoman Emily Goodin said. "We thank people for their patience during this time.”
Three cafeterias are currently open on the House side of the Capitol, including the Rayburn and Ford building cafeterias and the Capitol Market in the basement of the Capitol.
During the month of August, the Longworth and Rayburn cafeteria will alternately close to be updated for the new vendor.
The Longworth Creamery will also be closed during August. But Sodexo will provide a coffee cart in the mornings so staffers can get their caffeine fix. The Longworth vending area also includes a machine that dispenses coffee.
Also closed in August are the Cannon and Longworth convenience stores, the Ford carryout and the Rayburn deli. The mini-marts in Cannon and Longworth are set to open later in August and will become self-checkout convenience stores providing sandwiches and snacks.
Staffers and lawmakers will have places to eat when Congress returns from August recess. On Sept. 8, the Longworth, Rayburn and Ford cafeterias will be open, along with the Capitol Market and the mini-marts in Cannon, Longworth and Ford.
But staffers will have to wait a little longer for the much-anticipated Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins being installed in Longworth. The coffee/ice cream combo, and the Subway sandwich shop coming to Rayburn, won't be open until the fall.
According to the timeline posted on Sodexo's House web portal, construction on the Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin Robbins and the Subway will run through August and September and continue into October.
During the closures, workers will review the cafeterias' design, renovate the area and acquire and install new equipment. The construction schedule is subject to change, so signs posted outside the cafeterias encouraged staffers to check the internal House site for updates.
As of Monday, the House intranet already had notices detailing the cafeteria closures, as well as a notice encouraging staffers to sign up for "SoGo" cards, which are a cashless card to pay for meals. The cards also have a rewards program, which include earning five points for every dollar spent and receiving every 10th cup of coffee free at the Ford, Rayburn and Longworth cafeterias.
Despite the construction, the transition was already visible Monday in the Capitol. Patriotic-colored balloons adorned the open cafeterias, and food service workers sported new red, white and blue uniforms. New menu signs were also spotted in the cafeterias, along with new utensil dispensers and some updated vending machines in Longworth. Sodexo staffers were also spotted around the Capitol, overseeing the transition.
Sodexo took over for New York-based Restaurant Associates, which had run House dining services since December 2007. Restaurant Associates still runs services in the Senate and Capitol Visitor Center, though low wages have sparked a series of food service worker strikes .
The workers in the Senate and CVC have also been fighting to be unionized, though House workers are already represented by Unite Here Local 23.
In an interview with Roll Call in June , Sodexo's president of government services David Scanlan said Sodexo would recognize the union and assume its contract. Sodexo would also comply with the D.C. Displaced Workers Act, which guarantees employees’ positions for 90 days when a provider changes.
“We don’t have any concern that the workers will be let go,” Unite Here Local 23 chapter president Emilio Abate said in a July 17 phone interview. He noted that workers have the 90-day protection and are also covered by the union contract. "They have the right to due process and just cause protection from the beginning."
Related: Sodexo Named New House Food Service Vendor Farewell, My Indigestion: Bidding Adieu to Restaurant Associates Longworth Scores a Baskin-Robbins The Creamery Lives on as Hill Networking App See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.