County flies full circle to land a small slice of airport pizza
Written by Michael Lewis on October 15, 2014
In the end, Miami-Dade County got the order right.
A pizza maker who was cut out of a lease at Miami International Airport because hot pizza smells like pizza has gotten a slice of airport space after all.
The pizza solution took a while before commissioners voted unanimously last week to award the pizza maker counter space at the airport. In the interim, the disheartened bidder regretted trying to deal with the county at all.
Worse was the county flip-flop in a scenario in which it asked pizzerias to bid on space, chose one as best, negotiated a deal and then said it didn’t want pizza at all because, according to the aviation director, pizza smell is bad for the image of a crown jewel airport.
That flight plan not only left a bad taste in the supposed winner’s mouth but had commissioners questioning how well the county treats all of its bidders.
It was the right question. The pizza parlor, which sought only 225 square feet in a massive airport, merely illustrated a much larger problem, that of jerking around bidders, which sours the process and raises bid prices.
When the county chooses a bidder as tops and then rejects the whole deal after big spending to win the bid by small, independent businesses – more than $110,000 by the top-ranked operator, plus whatever the other eight bidders spent – it sends up red flags about dealing with the county.
At minimum, it will drive up bid prices, costing taxpayers money, or drive out the best bidders, costing taxpayers even more.
Commissioners recognized that last winter when at the aviation director’s request they threw out all nine bids for a pizza counter in Miami International Airport’s North Terminal. Several asked then that the top proposer, 305 Pizza at MIA, get space elsewhere in the airport. Last week the company got a slice of space in the same area – even though pizza still smells like pizza.
“I have to question how much of good faith have we put forward to try and make this thing work,” Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr. said in January as aviation officials moved to ground all plans for a pizza parlor after seeking bids, choosing a winner and negotiating the final contract in detail.
It was a good question, a serious question and a potentially costly question for the county – not in the case of a tiny pizza parlor that will pay the airport just $151,199 a year or 15% of gross revenues but in the case of massive bids that the airport and the county constantly call for.
Fortunately, the question also got a good if belated answer as officials decided that the annoyance of pizza smell is nothing compared with the smell of a county government that deals unfairly with responsive bidders.