The St. Charles Hospital Parish cafeteria has become one of the more popular local lunch destinations due to their abundance of buffet options and low prices, but some have questioned whether the publicly-funded café is taking business from restaurants in the area.
The café is run by renowned chef Blaine Guillot, a lifelong resident of St. Charles who was recently selected as one of the best chefs in the state. In addition to running the Oyster’s Pearl Cafe’, Guillot is the director of food services at the hospital.
One letter the Herald-Guide received questioned why the hospital, which runs the cafeteria using public tax dollars, would market the Oyster’s Pearl as a “full-blown restaurant with take-out service, and with a professionally trained chef at the helm.”
The anonymous letter, signed only as “A St. Charles Parish Resident and Taxpayer,” asked why the hospital cafeteria would compete with private restaurants in the area.
“If I were a local restaurant owner, I would not be happy with this operation, paid for by taxpayers, taking business from me on a daily basis,” the letter reads.
But hospital spokesman Quinn Landry said that the café has no intention of stealing business away from restaurants in St. Charles.
“It has never been our intention to compete with local restaurants through our cafeteria services. In fact, even with our improved cafeteria services many of our 500 employees still utilize our local restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said.
In fact, Landry said while Guillot has increased the quality of food served it is not the hospital’s intention to compete with local private businesses, but with other hospitals.
“For many years hospital patient meals have had the same stigma as airline meals. With the increased competitiveness of hospitals it is necessary for any hospital to look at their non-clinical services for improving their competitive edge. For that reason many hospitals find themselves outsourcing food services to companies like Sodexo or Morrison. We are fortunate in having highly qualified, local homegrown residents to provide these high quality services in-house,” he said.
In addition, Landry said only 7.5 percent of the hospital’s operating budget comes from the local tax base and the cafeteria actually provides further revenues that subsidize other parts of the hospital.
“In our view it is essential to have highly credentialed and capable staff in meeting our mission statement to our community,” he said. “In the case of Blaine Guilliot, our food service director, he has reached his acclaimed chef status during our employment, which speaks highly of his willingness and his ability to achieve higher standards.”
Landry said the hospital is very lucky to have Guillot, along with hospital dietitian Laura Acosta, to helm food services for the entire hospital for the sake of the patients.
“It is their responsibility to provide physician-directed meals to our patients such as regular diets, diabetic diets, low-fat diets, low-sodium diets and so on,” he said.