Bad Food and the NPS

posted Feb 21, 2015, 8:58 AM by Paul Wagner

Why is the food so universally bad in our national parks?

 It’s true that they located in difficult places:  food deliveries are going to be limited and expensive. But there has to be more to it than that.  On our last trip to Death Valley, we waited more than forty minutes to be served a BLT at Stovepipe Wells, and when it arrived it was stone cold.  The next night, at Furnace Creek, our salads and entrees arrived at the same time, within three minutes of ordering them, and well before our drinks made it to the table.      

It’s as if nobody in the dining room is paying attention. And it’s not just that we’re from Napa, and used to better things.  As we look around the restaurants in our national parks, we see looks of confusion and bewilderment on the faces of all the customers. Why is it so hard?      

The worst restaurant we have ever visited is the one at Grant’s Grove in SEKI.  A few years ago, they were simply a disaster from beginning to end:  bad reception, lousy service, and terrible food, all bundled up into one restaurant.  And the prices in these places are way above what you would pay anywhere else.  In Death Valley, one steakhouse is asking more than $65 for a steak—and given the rest of the operation we can’t imagine that it was very good.  Two days before we had eaten at Harris Ranch in Coalinga—not exactly the culinary capital of the Western World—where the steaks were certainly better, and certainly less expensive. And the service was attention, and the whole thing worked.       

We wish that SOMEBODY were paying attention to this, but they are not. Sure, it might be hard to get good staff to work at a national park, (Really?  Wouldn’t bright young people want to do this for a season of adventure?) but there seems to be almost no training of the people they do hire.  And there seems to be no supervision in the dining room.  Again, nobody there is paying attention…