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Museum yanks Puck Catering exclusive event contract

January 23, 2007
The Indianapolis Museum of Art has revoked Wolfgang Puck Catering’s exclusive contract for events at the museum after the Los Angeles-based company failed to deliver at a big event last year.

The IMA sent a letter Monday to 10 caterers that are locally based or have a local presence in order to gauge interest in catering future events at the museum, said IMA Director Maxwell Anderson.

Puck will remain as operator of the museum’s restaurant and café but will have to compete for the lucrative catering business.
 
Puck CEO Carl Schuster said the company will continue working to prevent future service lapses and building on its relationship with IMA.

“The committee’s decision to expand the catering list, we’re okay with that,” Schuster said. “They needed to have more variety, for the museum’s mission. We just have to continue to try and be the best caterer in the market.”

Before Puck won the exclusive contract in 2004, several local caterers shared responsibility for hundreds of museum-sponsored activities and outside events held annually on the museum’s picturesque grounds.

Starting in mid-February, the museum again will open catering to a “handful” of companies that will be selected based on factors such as experience, referrals and price, Anderson said.

“On the catering side, we want to give more options to those who’d like to have events at the museum,” said Anderson, who is in Atlanta this week for an Association of Art Museum Directors conference.

He said art directors all over the country have found foodservice to be a challenge—a spot where museums can “trip up” even though food is never at the center of a museum’s purpose.

In the case of Puck, running both the restaurants and catering was too much to handle, Anderson said. That became evident when the company’s slow service marred a European Galleries opening on Nov. 29.

Anderson put the fate of the catering company, named after the world-famous chef, in the hands of an IMA task force, as IBJ reported Jan. 8. Its assignment: determine why the service was slow and prevent it from happening again.

Puck Catering took over a variety of food-service duties when the museum reopened in May 2005 following a $74 million renovation and expansion.
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