Cruel and unusual SFO taxi food 

Talk about a captive market! Hidden away at the center of San Francisco International Airport is a concrete pit where thousands of taxi drivers pass through every day, awaiting their turns to move onto the fare pickup line.

Amenities at the taxi pit are Spartan, to say the least. Aside from basic restrooms, there is only a catering truck parked inside a barren garage with an old television set atop a cardboard box for the cabbies’ entertainment.

As any urban traveler is fully aware, the ranks of taxi drivers tend to be heavily populated by entrepreneurial recent immigrants from a dizzying variety of countries. Many of these newer arrivals came from societies where tasty eating is a high priority, just as many of the U.S.-born veteran drivers were raised in cultures where hearty fare is the norm.

And that is why so many of the cabbies at SFO feel personally affronted by the food quality available to them at their waiting area "roach coach." Corn dogs, soggy white-bread sandwiches wrapped in plastic, grease-fried doughnuts and stale packaged crackers are not what these waiting drivers had in mind for their hours of confinement.

In fairness, it should be noted that even the loudest complainers have only kind words to say about the hardworking Vietnamese couple from Hayward who operate the catering truck. The consensus is that food was even worse under prior concessionaires. And even some employees from inside the airport choose to eat there because of the comparatively low prices.

As it happens, bidding has just been quietly opened for the new truck concession period, and there does not appear to be a heavy rush of competitors. Even the current truck operators say they may not renew, because their near-$10,000 monthly lease leaves them only an embarrassingly paltry net profit.

Airport spokesmen guarantee SFO will do whatever is needed to keep a catering truck on-site, so the cabbies don’t starve during their long waits. If necessary, lease fees could be reduced and the contract could go out for rebid.

Frankly, our hearts go out to these Bay Area taxi drivers stuck in the pickup line without decent pasta or pirogi, without a gyro sandwich or some curry. They do hard, stressful work and deserve healthy, satisfying food. We say, "Free the cabbies from corn dogs!"

This time around, the airport Revenue Development and Management Department should actually consider the food quality before giving out a lease — and not just pick the highest bidder. Ideally a panel of taxi drivers should be consulted about the candidates.

After all, taxis are already charged a substantial "gate fee" every time they exit the airport with passengers. SFO shouldn’t need to squeeze out a few extra dollars by letting the cabbies be fed slop.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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