Nevada Legislature deli converting to a high-tech vending operation
Beginning Aug. 1, state workers will see a dramatic change in the legislative delicatessen.
The people who have for years served them breakfast, lunch and snacks are gone. They will be replaced by a modern version of the historic automats of the 1940s and ’50s — high-tech vending machines that will provide everything from beverages, chips and coffee to frozen treats, sandwiches and even microwavable meals.
Kevin Horigan who runs the state’s Business Enterprise Office said Smart N Go from Avante Foods will install a five-door vending system that can provide fresh food and everything else any time people want them. He said the goal is to expand service and options for legislative and other state workers who rely on the deli by transitioning from “full service to what we call in the industry a micro market.
“It’s more beneficial for our vendors, ease of use for them to run,” he said. “It increases profits and cuts down on costs.”
Horigan said the Business Enterprise Program operates under the Randolph Sheppard Act that, by federal law, gives first priority to blind business operators in providing vending and food services in public buildings. The operator in both the legislative building and Bryan building in Carson City is Marjory Olaes.
Customers can scan their credit or debit card or use a pre-purchased card to unlock the doors of the machines and then examine the food item they want. If they don’t like it, they just put it back where it came from and choose something else.
Once the customer finds what they want, they simply close the door, hit the total and the machine processes the transaction, charging or debiting the customer’s card.
Horigan said it will be a big change for customers but that the vendor will be monitoring what customers are buying and will keep the machines filled with fresh and quality products. He said he and his team will also be monitoring how the system is received and keeping an eye on how the vendor is doing, keeping fresh foods in the machines and matching the products to what people want.
But he said during legislative sessions, the deli will change back to a manned operation much like it has been since it opened in the late 1990s.
He said the delicatessen in the Bryan Building is also undergoing a major change and will become, “an unmanned convenience store” where people walk in, select what they want and scan it to pay on the way out.
Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Rick Combs said he too will be watching to see how customers react to the new machines and the food options they provide. He said how the change is received is his major concern along with how well the vendors do keeping the machines stocked.
“I did get a commitment that, if it isn’t working, they’ll pull the machines out and go to something else,” he said.
Combs and Horigan said the change isn’t a reflection on the outgoing operators who own Mom and Pops Diner across Carson Street.
“They did a great job,” said Horigan.
Combs said the only concerns LCB staffers have raised is the loss of Caroline, the woman who ran the deli for the past several years. She was offered a position with Smart N Go but Horigan said she declined the offer.
He said the federally-mandated Business Enterprise Program is designed to make blind operators into successful, independent businessmen. Under the Nevada program, he said they provide licensed operators yearly retirement checks and pay “a chunk of money” into their health insurance and benefits.
If the LCB deli and Bryan Building changes are successful, he said they will plan similar changes at the other manned Business Enterprise stores in the area. There are four live locations in Reno including the DMV office and Mills Lane Justice Center courthouse complex.