The National Park Service recently issued a concession prospectus for the operation of a food and beverage service in Mojave National Preserve. The 1.6-million acre preserve, sandwiched between I-15 and I-40 east of Barstow, California, is the third-largest national park unit in the contiguous United States. The contract is for five to ten years beginning November 1, 2013.
The food service is a 31-seat lunch counter located in the Kelso Depot, a 1924 facility constructed in Spanish Mission Revival style by the Union Pacific Railroad. The depot was closed by the railroad in 1985, but extensively renovated and reopened as the National Park Service VIsitor Center in 2005. The depot includes a baggage room, two overnight lodging rooms, and a ticket and telegraph office, all of which have been restored to a pre-1942 appearance.
The restaurant is open only during visitor center hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), seven days a week except Christmas Day. The current menu consists of salads, sandwiches, drinks, and desserts. The concessionaire will be authorized to offer catering, bundled firewood, bagged ice, and limited merchandise as well as food service under the new contract.
Annual revenues for three years ending in 2011 were $59,000, $95,000, and $141,000, respectively. The Park Service estimates 2014 revenues at $151,000, growing by about 2 percent annually the following two years. An estimated initial investment of $40,492 will be required of a new concessionaire, most of which is for personal property. A minimum franchise fee of 1.5 percent of gross revenues is required to be paid to the NPS.
Prospective bidders face several important issues. First, the current concessionaire is considered by the NPS as a preferred offeror, meaning it has the right to keep the concession by matching the best proposal received by the NPS. The prospectus does not indicate if the current concessionaire is interested in pursuing a new contract.
Second, the depot’s location is quite remote, so a concessionaire must be prepared to live in relative solitude. The prospectus states “…. telephone and Internet service is not always reliable.” The NPS provides two RV pads, but no RV or trailer in which to live. Utilities, including telephone, electric, gas, water, sewage, and garbage collection are provided by the NPS for a monthly fee.
A one-day site visit is scheduled for September 26 and proposals are due by November 28 in the NPS San Francisco regional office.