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IMA wants share of restaurant, catering revenue

December 16, 2008

The Indianapolis Museum of Art wants a share of revenue from its restaurant operation rather than relying on a management fee.

The change comes as the museum examines four proposals it has received to run its restaurant and café, and possibly a renewed catering service.

Chief Operating Officer Jack Leicht said local and national companies, including existing operator Los Angeles-based Wolfgang Puck, have submitted proposals. Leicht would not identify the other companies.

Museum officials wouldn't discuss details of the museum's existing arrangement with Puck except to say that revenue to the museum hasn't reached expectations under the existing management fee.

Puck developed a rocky relationship with the museum after a dinner at the November 2006 opening of a European exhibit lasted so long that some guests carried away dessert in take-home containers. Since the debacle, service has been "disappointing" at times, though it has improved recently, said Katie Zarich, acting director of public affairs.

Puck saw its exclusive catering contract revoked nearly two years ago due to slow service. The new contract likely will include a catering operation, Leicht said.

The museum closed its restaurant during evenings in October due to slow traffic. However, Leicht said the problem might be as much the museum's location as anything else. After guests enjoy a dinner, there's little else to do near the museum, which is located at 4000 Michigan Road on the northwest side.

"To offer food service to people coming to the museum was more important than having a restaurant that operated outside of our hours," Leicht said.

Puck's contract is open-ended but contains a cancellation clause. The company that receives the new contract will begin in April, Leicht said.

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