Horse Park to operate its own food service

The Kentucky Horse Park will begin to operate its own food service early next year, ending a 12-year contract with Lundy's Catering for general concessions.

"We're very excited about our decision to operate the food concessions at the park for the general public and for our horse show participants because of our commitment to quality and innovation," said Horse Park Director John Nicholson. "We think this offers a revenue potential as well."

Lundy's will still be a presence at the park, however, because people who hold private parties and special events at the park can use whichever caterer they want.

The decision comes after the state Finance and Administration Cabinet canceled two requests for proposals — commonly called RFPs — for concessions at the park.

The first time, the bids were canceled because the RFP included catering for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Officials decided to remove the World Games from the contract and start over. Lundy's had put in bids for both RFPs.

Alissa Tibe, vice-president of the Lundergan Group, said she and her father, former Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman and Lundy's owner Jerry Lundergan, were disappointed not to be an official part of the World Games or the Horse Park.

"It's disheartening to go through the process — it's expensive, it requires a lot of time and effort, and to have it canceled twice is disheartening," she said. "We're a national company that's based here in Lexington. Our résumé speaks for itself."

Nicholson said it's now easier for the park to operate concessions because several new facilities, such as the indoor arena and the outdoor stadium, have better equipment and infrastructure. That will allow the park to offer the traditional tourist fare, plus healthier alternatives for people who might attend horse shows for weeks at a time.

"The other aspect is that it still gives our customers who want to have a private function the ability to have the caterer they want, and that means small and minority-owned business can do business at the park," Nicholson said. "It's a win-win."

Private groups will still have to pay the park a fee worth 20 percent of the catering contract to hold events at the park.

Nicholson said the park is working out the budget for the operation, which is supposed to start by next March, but he doesn't think there will be much outlay for hiring new personnel.

World Games organizers have hired Global Food Service Solutions to organize all the concessions and catering for the Games, between Sept. 25 and Oct. 10. They're also organizing a series of celebrity chef-dinners at the park during the Games.